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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 among our many, many, posts. 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.

SCTV Archive: This is actually useful if you want a quick way to look back through the posts we’ve made by month / year. Just click the selection 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…

Top Posts and Pages: identifies the posts that have had the most views so you can benefit from the Wisdom of the Crowd. Or something.

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 the post archive for your selection.

Finally, use the Subscribe Now 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.

As indeed we are.

Media Effects: Althusser and Interpellation

Friday, November 26th, 2021
Interpellation: Media ideas are woven into the fabric of our thoughts and lives…

In a previous post I suggested how it might be possible to breathe new relevance into the classic 2-Step Flow model of Media Effects (A New Digital 2-Step) and this post takes a similar Back to the Future approach to media effects by digging-up and dusting-down an idea – Interpellation – that’s been around since the 1970’s but which, for one reason or another, doesn’t seem to have attracted much attention at High School and A-level.

This is a little-surprising because it derives from the work of Louis Althusser, the French Structuralist Marxist whose work generally features in these curricula in relation to concepts of Ideological and Repressive State Apparatuses (ISAs and RSAs respectively).

Interpellation is directly related to Ideological State Apparatuses because for Althusser (1972), ideology –  “the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence” – was a key component of (mass) media texts that, in turn, are an integral part of Ideological State Apparatuses in contemporary capitalist societies.

Prisoners and Jailers

The conventional way to think about ideology in contemporary societies is that it works on individuals.

It is, in other words, a force (of ideas about the world) that flows down from institutions like the media onto individuals who are largely powerless to prevent its effects. In contemporary capitalist societies people, in other words, are constantly bombarded with ideas and interpretations supportive of the status quo,  the weight of which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to ignore or escape. We are all, in this respect unwitting and largely unwilling prisoners of our media jailors.

Individuals, from this perspective, are broadly receptive objects of whatever ideas and interpretations about the world the media propagates. The media, in this respect, tells us what to think and how to think about the social world by presenting it as “normal” and largely unquestionable.  We may or may not like what we see, read and hear but, to coin a phrase, “It is what it is”.

Somewhat ironically, Althusser’s ISAs are frequently presented as the epitome of this worldview, with a largely-unfavourable contrast drawn between his structural Marxism and the more-humanistic Hegemonic Marxism of writers such as Gramsci and, to a slightly lesser extent, Poulantzas. The concept of interpellation, however, forces us to both soften and reinterpret Althusser’s ideas because it suggests we should constitute individuals in capitalist societies as ideological subjects rather than objects.

In other words, we should seek to understand media effects in the context of individuals as prisoners who are, in turn, their own jailors. We are all integrated into and intimately involved with the reproduction of the ideas that imprison us…

Interpellation

The basic idea here is that rather than seeing people as individuals who “stand outside” the various competing media-promoted ideologies that structure any society, interpellation involves the idea that we are woven into the various ideological fabrics of society, such that the two are effectively inseparable: we are what we are led to believe and we believe it because that’s who we are.

In very simple terms we can think of this as the difference between reading a story (or narrative if you really insist) and being an integral character in that story – one whereby you both relate and, by so doing, create, the story of your life.

Trekkies…

If you prefer your examples a little more 21st century, Cremin and Boulton’s “The Sociology of Videogames” (2011) uses the hugely-successful first-person shooter (fps) Call of Duty franchise to illustrate the concept. In this context, Althusser argued that media power is located in the way the media actively encourages us to identify with the images, words and ideas we see and hear.

On a simple level this might involve identifying with a particular Star Wars or Star Trek character – or the film franchise as a whole – in a way that encourages us to leave our critical faculties and assessments at the cinema (home or otherwise) door. If you constitute yourself as a Trekkie, for example, you become the subject of the object with which you identify; being “a Trekkie”, for example, becomes woven (interpellated) into the very fabric of your identity.

While this may not matter over-much to non-Trekkies, the same process starts to have slightly-darker connotations when applied to war-based videogames like Call of Duty. As Cremin and Boulton argue:

By identifying with the protagonist in Call of Duty we ‘recognise’ ourselves in the world of Call of Duty as the character we play and the values he embodies. In this way we identify with the game world’s delineations of good and evil. We identify with the ideology and are thereby interpellated by the American military through the conduit of the videogame form”.

In other words, where this type of media involves our identification with the character we’re playing we are drawn deeper into a world with a particular ideological outlook and political viewpoint. As Cremin and Boulton put it, “An ideology ‘speaks to us’ every time we recognise ourselves in certain characters or identify with certain values represented in popular media or by the state, the family and other ‘institutions’ that Althusser calls the generic ideological state apparatus (ISA)”.

On a more-complex level, identifying with a particular political ideology, such as Republican Trumpism, takes interpellation to a whole new level, whereby people not only identify with “Trumpism” but are emboldened to act-out whatever mediated fantasies (“Stop the Steal!”) they are encouraged to pursue.

Hailing

A further dimension to interpellation, therefore, – and one that highlights its structural origins – involves the concept of “hailing”: the idea that where individuals are woven into the general fabric of a particular media ideology it becomes relatively easy for powerful media concerns to push such individuals into a particular kind of behaviour simply by “hailing” – calling or naming them – to act.

Hailing does not necessarily involve direct calls to action by the media, precisely because interpellation involves the idea people are primed to act “independently” under certain conditions and in particular circumstances.

In this way the ability of media organisations to move people in particular desired directions appears to be both indirect and unconnected to media concerns and interests. It appears that people make individual considered choices about what to think and how to behave while, in effect, they are being subtly pushed and pulled in whatever direction media power wants them to move.

A clear and obvious example here might be the January 6th storming of the American Capitol building by Trump supporters. Arguments about whether or not Trump was involved in a conspiracy to encourage his supporters to launch such an attack miss the point in the context of interpellation and hailing. For those whose identify was intimately bound-up in Trumpism there was no need for a direct command to attack; they had simply been primed to respond to the media hail: in this instance, the seemingly innocuous instruction to “fight like hell” which could, of course, have plausible denial…

Free Introduction to Sociology v3e Textbook

Monday, November 22nd, 2021
Download Pdf Version

This blog has featured quite a few free sociology texts over the years and while these should be generally-useful to teachers and students who want to mix-and-match their basic sources, the self-imposed limitation of only featuring out-of-print versions of English and American textbooks means students probably still need a reasonably-current textbook.

These, as you’re probably only-too-painfully aware, are increasingly expensive. Take one of my textbooks for the International market: The 1st edition of the Cambridge International AS and A-level Sociology Coursebook still costs around £30, while the 2nd edition is closer to £36 or $56 in the US.

While it’s probably scant consolation that I’m not the one making any money from these prices, this is where something like the latest version of the free, open-source, Introduction to Sociology textbook from the Openstax organisation comes into play. Arriving 3 or 4 years after the previous version, the latest text is available in two basic flavours: an offline pdf version and an online version.

While this is the “official version” of the text, it’s in the nature of the open-source beast that teachers are free to “distribute, remix, and build upon the content, as long as you provide attribution to OpenStax and its content contributors”.

Although, in practice, this usually just means adding bits and pieces to the basic text as-and-if your students need it, it’s perhaps nice to know that the authors are happy for you to change anything you want. With the online version it’s been made easier for teachers / students to highlight and add notes to the basic text. To do this you’ll need to register as either a student or educator.

This is free and gives access to a range of resources and content tailored to each group. Students, for example, can use the aforementioned highlighting and note-adding functions, as well as getting access to Guides on Getting Started, Reading and Notetaking and Time Management.

You’re also free, under the terms of the Creative Commons license, to copy the book as many times as you like, which is handy as a means of ensuring that all your students have access to the text at no extra charge.

Or indeed any charge at all.

In terms of content it is, given it’s US College origins, skewed towards American curricula and interests but, as I’ve just noted, you’re free to swap stuff in and out of the text – including entire chapters if you so desire – so that’s not, unlike with conventional printed textbooks, an insurmountable problem.

While American High School Sociology teachers and students will be familiar with its broad content, English and Welsh teachers / students will find many of the chapters broadly familiar at A-level. These include:

  • Culture and Socialisation
  • Gender, Age, Ethnicity
  • Family
  • Education
  • Health
  • Inequality (including global)
  • Religion
  • Deviance
  • Media
  • There are also a few areas – Government and Politics, Work and the Economy, Population, Urbanism and the Environment – that were once part of A-level Specs, but which have been progressively stripped away over the years, included in the package for American / International students.

    While the text isn’t perfect for non-American students, it’s a nice example of how the open-source movement is starting to change the textbook publishing landscape.

    And there are now loads of different subjects available, so you can include all your friends and colleagues in the giveaway…

    Explaining Hate Crime

    Thursday, November 11th, 2021

    The concept of “hate crime” in English law is currently (2021) defined as:

    “Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender”.

    It’s a definition that has developed in a somewhat piecemeal fashion, particularly over the past 50 or so years, that has some notable features:

    Firstly, it’s wide-ranging in terms of what constitutes “an offence” in law. In basic terms it can be any behaviour as long as it is “motivated by hostility or prejudice”. In reality, this crystalises into three main types: “physical assault, verbal abuse and incitement to hatred”.

    Secondly, it is restricted to a narrow range of protected categories. While “hostility or prejudice” towards someone who identifies as transgender is an offence, gender hatred is not currently included in these categories: in England and Wales, for example, neither misogyny (a hatred or contempt for women) nor misandry (a hatred or concept for men) is a criminal offence.

    Thirdly, it somewhat unusually defines criminal behaviour in terms of the “perception of the victim or any other person”. It is, in other words, up to the victim to decide whether or not an offence has taken place.

    History of Hate

    While the above, for what should be fairly obvious reasons, makes it difficult to precisely identify and explain how and why hate crime offences come about or to track demographic changes over time, there is one particular area of “hate crime” that has been on the statute books for over a century (“Threat or conspiracy to murder”) that is relatively easy to track and, in some respects, explain. The Home Office publishes a useful summary of recorded crime data from 1898 – 2002 that shows an interesting trend over a 100 year period:

    In 1900, for example, there were 8 recorded crimes for this offence.

    In 2000 the recorded number was 14,000.

    If we look at the past 100 years, the changes are even more remarkable:

    In 1921 there were 16 recorded offences.

    In 2021 this figure was around 40,000…

    Even if we allow for things like population changes (around 25 million more people in England in 2000 compared to 1900) and differences in the way crimes may presently be recorded compared to the past, it’s evident that we need to explain these changes sociologically if we are to make sense of them.

    Explanations

    As luck or good timing would have it, Neil Chakraborti (2021) has offered four explanations of this upward trend in hate crime that we can paraphrase in the following terms:

    1. Ease of Access: the relatively recent development of social media (Twitter and Facebook in particular) and email has made it much easier and simpler for an offender to send something like a death threat:

  • There is very little effort involved in contacting your target.
  • The effect is immediate – with social media, for example, it is instantaneous.
  • Potential offenders have much greater access to victims through something like social media.
  • This may also account for part of the increase in “murder threats” in that ease of access coupled with lack of effort means there is little or no time for the potential offender to reflect on their behaviour: unlike in the past, for example, there is little or no time to think about whether “threatening to kill someone” over some real or perceived wrong is an appropriate way to (instantly) behave…

    2. Anonymity: Although people generally overestimate the level of anonymity they enjoy online – anyone can be traced if you throw enough time and resources at finding them – there is undoubtedly a sense that individuals who feel or believe themselves to be “acting anonymously” give greater reign to abusive behaviour. Chakraborti also suggests that perceptions of anonymity provide offenders with a greater sense of “personal invincibility” – the idea that the threats they make will come at no personal cost because victims will never be able to find them.

    3. Cultural changes: A third element involves cultural changes in both communication (the aforementioned ease with which messages can be targeted) and consciousness: that is, the idea that for a significant number of people their particular world view is both easily offended and requires a strong defence from these perceived attacks. This seems particularly the case for those who perceive themselves as being involved in some sort of culture war, whether this be “the war on woke”, attacking “cancel culture” or whatever their current perceived sense of threat might be.

    This elevated sense of cultural threat combined with ease of communication serves to create responses, such as death threats, that those not invested in cultural battles and exchanges would consider over-exaggerated. To the perpetrators, however, these may represent entirely appropriate responses to heightened levels of what they may perceive as a personal, existential, threat. This is not, of course, to excuse such behaviour, but it might go some way towards explaining why it occurs at the levels it currently does.

    4. The normalisation of hate: Where various forms of hateful language have become part of both the social and physical media discourse, their effect is underestimated. Hateful language in the form of death threats, for example, becomes seen as just another part of normal cultural / political discourse to the extent that perpetrators fail to see the seriousness of the threats they make.


    Research Methodology: Neo-Positivism

    Wednesday, November 10th, 2021

    As Jurgenson (2014) notes, positivism reflects the idea that, “if enough data can be collected with the “right” methodology it will provide an objective and disinterested picture of reality” and it is, in this respect, based upon two fundamental beliefs about the social world:

    1. It involves patterns of behaviour that are capable of being discovered through systematic  observation / research.

    2. It has an objective existence, governed by causal relationships, over and above the control of individual social actors.

    Big Data…

    This idea of objectivity is both a key strength – it suggests a social world that exists in a state that can be both described and explained separately from the hopes and desires of individual social actors – and weakness here: in order to systematically research an objective social world the researcher must be objective too. They must, for example, avoid participating in or influencing the behaviour being studied. This, however, has always been easier said than done, given the existence of the observer effect: the claim that any attempt to measure human behaviour changes that behaviour it in some unknown – and unknowable – way.

    In other words, although there are a variety of research methods available to positivist researchers – from questionnaires through lab experiments to naturalistic observation – most involve an artificial situation in which the research is conducted, an awareness on the part of those being studied researched they are being researched or some sort of interaction, however minimal, between researcher and researched.

    Or in some cases, all three.

    Neo-Positivism…

    Revision Mapping Mass Media

    Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021

    While the recently-posted Research Methods Revision Maps have a certain timeless and transcendental quality(?) when it comes to being reasonably up-to-date and applicable to a wide range of sociology specifications, the same probably can’t be said of this batch of Media Revision Maps. They were created for the AQA Spec around about the time my second AQA textbook was published, around 2006, so be aware that:

    a. They’re rather dated in terms of content (there’s not a massive amount about new media, for example).

    b. The Specification has changed over the years, making some of the stuff covered by the Maps a little redundant. The Maps were also produced when Media was an AS / A1 Unit, as opposed to the A2 Unit it subsequently became…

    Having duly noted this, the actual content of the Maps isn’t necessarily the most important element (although, having said that, it probably helps if it’s reasonably current and relevant…) and it’s not like it was written before the invention of the printing press, television or even the Internet.

    In addition, the majority of the theoretical and conceptual material should be broadly okay – basic stuff on things like media effects and audiences, for example, is still covered in most Specs. and, if nothing else, provides a basic introduction that can be updated as-and-if required – but stuff like statistical data will invariably need to be updated with newer material.

    However, the main takeaway here is the notion of creating the Maps themselves, as a revision aid that focuses student attention on the key ideas and connections in whatever content they’re covering.

    1. Different explanations of the relationship between ownership and control of the mass media

    2. Different explanations of the relationship between the mass media and ideology

    3. Different explanations of the processes of selection and presentation of media content

    4. The role of the mass media in representations of age, social class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and disability

    China In Your Hand: Gig Economy Research

    Monday, November 1st, 2021

    Avid consumers of this blog (anyone?) will be aware that from time-to-time I get the chance to post examples of the research work done by Dean Aldred’s A-level students from the Shenzhen College of International Education in China and this post is given-over to two short pieces of research into the lives and experiences of gig economy workers in Chinese society.

    1. Annie Tang: Are takeaway workers being exploited in China?

    This examination of the Gig Economy in China looks at the Takeaway industry and, more-specifically, the hours, personal and family life of the workers involved. This was achieved using semi-structured interviews involving a combination of open and closed questions to generate both quantitative and qualitative data.

    The research describes in some detail the lives and working conditions of the 4 male participants in the study and while the sample size was small – making it difficult to generalise to wider populations of age, gender and ethnicity, for example – how Tang arrived at her (snowball) sample is an interesting example of research problem-solving when things don’t go as initially planned. It’s an important takeaway (pun sort-of intended) for students evaluating different types of research methods and methodology.

    (more…)

    Revision Mapping Research Methods

    Sunday, October 31st, 2021

    While I’ve previously posted a Revision Map on Sociological Perspectives I never, for some reason, got around to posting further Maps (at least, not in pdf format – there have been Flipbook versions).

    Until now.

    In order to remedy the omission, therefore, I thought I’d start with a range of Maps dedicated to Research Methods. Although they were originally constructed around an old(ish) A-level Specification it probably doesn’t matter overmuch because when it comes to Methods there’s only so much you can ask and most Specifications – A-level and High School, English or American – cover much the same sort of stuff. This means the content’s still generally relevant to contemporary Specifications.

    Revision Mapping, in case you’re not familiar with the concept, is based on identifying keywords in a particular context and linking them to further keywords to build a highly-structured map of a specific concept, theory or method.

    (more…)

    Podcasts Without Pictures: The Sociology Show

    Wednesday, October 27th, 2021

    Educational podcasting – both with and without pictures – has become increasingly popular over the past few years as the wider availability of computer audio equipment, plus the ease of uploading and hosting content, has made producing such resources much quicker and easier.

    The Sociology Show.
    In case the branding’s not clear.

    We’ve featured some examples of these podcasts in the past and while most are aimed at various types of revision – both for exam and as a catch-up resource – the latest podcast to pique our interest offers something slightly different, while also offering something slightly similar.

    The Sociology Show, created and hosted by Matthew Wilkin, has been around since April 2020, during which time it has amassed a library of nearly 150 episodes ranging in length from 10 to 45 minutes (give-or-take), depending on what’s being covered and by whom.

    By this I mean there are broadly, three types of podcast:

    1. An academic talking about their research. These tend to be longer than average – around 30 – 45 minutes – mainly because academics like to talk slowly, and at great length, about the things that interest them. Mainly their research and themselves, although not necessarily in that order. Probably.

    Overall there are an impressive number of sociologists you might have heard of (Hobbs, Hakim, Venkatesh…) and a substantial number who, it’s certain to say, you won’t. And while it’s a little serendipitous, listening to a few of the latter may well reap dividends when it comes to greater understanding of a topic. And Sociology as a whole, come to that.

    (more…)

    New GCSE Sociology Knowledge Organisers

    Saturday, October 23rd, 2021

    Following from a safe distance the recent batches of A-level Knowledge Organisers (A Few More A-level Sociology Knowledge Organisers and Even More Sociology A-Level Organisers) comes something similar for GCSE. These are largely for AQA but there is one set aimed specifically at Eduqas.

    Chase Terrace Academy: Although I’ve previously posted Organisers for Crime and Deviance, Families and Methods, this set seems to have been revamped and rebranded.

    Sociological Approaches and Methods

    Families and Households

    Crime and Deviance

    Social Stratification

    The Highfield School

    What Is Sociology?: Indeed.

    Hugh Christie School

    GCSE Sociology Knowledge Organiser: A beautifully-crafted booklet created by Daryl Taylor for the Eduqas Specification that covers Key Sociological Concepts, Processes of Cultural Transmission, Social Change in the UK, Research Methods and Families.

    (more…)

    Even More A-level Sociology Organisers

    Thursday, October 21st, 2021
    Image that has nothing to do with post content and only exists to make a point. Although what that point is, I’m not sure.

    A little like the iconic red buses of yore, you wait a couple of years for a new batch of a-level sociology knowledge organisers and then two come along at once.

    Or a few days later at any rate.

    Bit like red buses when you come to think about it.

    Still, a gift horse is a gift horse and having spent no little time trying to sort the wheat from the chaff I think I’ve managed to put together an interesting set of resources for your teaching and learning edification.

    Churston Ferrers Grammar School: A big, bold and colourful set of Organisers that may or may not have been created at said school. While the metadata says “yes” I couldn’t find any trace of them on the actual school site and had to dig around a few different places to find what I’ve found.

    Action Theories

    Functionalism

    Big, Bold, etc.

    Functionalism: This is more-or-less the same as the above (there seem to be a few minor text changes), but with the addition of a small number of quite cute graphics.

    Feminism

    Marxism

    Modernity and Postmodernity

    Positivism v Interpretivism

    Social Policy

    Sociology and Science

    Sociology and Values

    (more…)

    Anthecology: Lesson Study Journals

    Tuesday, October 19th, 2021

    My only previous exposure to teachers carrying-out research in their own school was Sandringham School’s Sandagogy site and the Sandringham Learning Journals therein.

    Here’s a clue…

    That was until I chanced upon the Samuel Whitbread Academy’s Anthecology (no, me neither) and while it may be entirely coincidental that both are Academies, I’m guessing it’s probably not. Which, if true, means there must be quite a few schools engaging in this kind of thing without any of it reaching the wider audience it deserves.

    This is a little ironic given that Anthecology involves the study of the relationship between plants and their pollinators (I was lying earlier), so I’m firmly of the opinion that it behoves me to take it upon myself to do what little I can to spread a little pollinating power by bringing these resources to a wider audience.

    That would be you, then.

    Lesson Study Journals

    While there’s a whole rationale surrounding the theory and practice of Study Journals you can read about if you’re so inclined, the Whitbread version is fairly basic and easily digested if you’re less inclined.

    In a nutshell it involves teachers doing some basic research in and around their own classrooms and subjects and sharing the outcome of that research with other teachers in the school.

    It’s probably more exciting than I’ve made it sound.

    (more…)

    A Few More Sociology Knowledge Organisers

    Monday, October 18th, 2021

    I think it’s probably fair to say that Knowledge Organisers / Learning Tables have become a well-established part of the A-level Sociology curriculum these past few years and while I’ve only posted one new set of examples over the past couple of years (the aptly-named New Selection) plus a rather-brilliant variation on the theme that is the Hybrid Organiser, it was probably time to see if I could dig-out a new batch for your teaching and learning edification.

    Which I clearly have. Obviously.

    Or you wouldn’t be reading this post.

    The new batch of contenders is, as ever, a mixed bag, but there’s bound to be something here that you’ll find helpful or, indeed, inspirational.

    Complete (AQA) Specification: Haggerston School

    I’d like to pretend that we’re starting as we mean to go on but this set of Organisers combines a clear and attractive design with a lot of concise, well-organised, information that marks it out from the run-of-the-mill competition. If, indeed, it is a competition. Which it’s not. Clearly. But if it were…

    It’s something of labour of love by an unnamed teacher (or teachers) and runs to 90+ pages covering the following areas:

  • What is Sociology?
  • Perspectives
  • Research Methods
  • Families and Households
  • Education
  • Beliefs in Society
  • Crime and Deviance
  • As you might notice from the graphic, it also gives a shout-out to my CAGES mnemonic so it was always going to feature highly on this list.

    I’m nothing if not shallow and easily-influenced..

    (more…)

    Digested Research: Children and Parental Care

    Tuesday, October 12th, 2021

    The extent of elderly adult parental care carried-out by children is an increasingly important one, particularly in Western societies like Britain and America where an ageing population demographic places increasing strains on both public and private heath care systems.

    Sociologically, questions about “Who does it?” and “How much do they do?” are also important at Advanced and High School level because they address a further dimension to the domestic labour debate as families become increasingly involved in elderly adult parental care, namely the extent to which this kind of domestic labour is gendered.  Not only, as Grigoryeva (2014) notes, in terms of the traditional focus on “how spouses share housework” but increasingly in terms of parental care.

    (more…)

    Sociological Stories: Sociology and Science

    Monday, October 11th, 2021

    The next Presentation in the Sociological Stories season is built around the relationship between Sociology and Science and covers four main areas:

  • What is science?
  • Is sociology a science?
  • Value-freedom
  • Types of data
  • Included in these 4 sections are stories about various sociological methodologies (Positivism, Neo-Positivism, Interpretivism, Realism), types of data (primary, secondary, quantitative, qualitative) and questions (value-freedom or value-neutrality?).

    These are constructed in ways that I like to think are both illuminating and instructive.

    Although I might be biased.

    Anyways, there’s loads of stuff here spread both thicky and thinly across 70 slides (there may be more, there may be less. Truth be told I gave-up counting or caring part way through) and some of it’s bound to stick.

    (more…)

    GCSE Subject Choices: Class, Gender and Ethnicity

    Saturday, October 2nd, 2021

    In an English context, most research into subject choice tends to focus on both post-compulsory education and gender for reasons that should be readily apparent:

    Firstly, post-16 (A-level) education tends to offer a wider and largely-unrestricted set of choices about which subjects to study, so student choice is much easier for researchers to identify and track.

    Secondly, gender is a relatively easy (biological) category to track and doesn’t present the same kinds of classification and measurement problems as categories such as class.

    While such as focus is both understandable and helpful, recent research by Henderson et al (2016) provides a useful addition to the literature by looking at the choices made by students at GCSE (post-14) level in terms of categories such as social class, gender, ethnicity, parental education and income.

    While it’s probably fair to say the research reveals no great surprises in terms of the relationship between class, ethnicity, gender and subject choice, it does add a further layer to our understanding of general processes involved in subject choices.

    Methodologically, the research involved:

  • Identifying patterns of GCSE subjects chosen by a cohort of young people born in 1989/1990.
  • Drawing data from “a longitudinal survey of these students linked to data on their academic attainment”.
  • Respondents selected using a stratified random sample.
  • The main objective of the study was to see whether differences in subject choice, excluding the compulsory subjects of Maths and English, “simply reflect differences in prior attainment or whether they actually operate above and beyond existing inequalities”.

    In other words the researchers wanted to see if GCSE subject choices were based on prior levels of achievement – students taking subjects at GCSE they liked and / or were good at – or if factors such as class, gender and ethnicity played a part in these choices.

    (more…)

    PowerPoint: Does Prison Work?

    Friday, October 1st, 2021

    Previously posted on Crime and Deviance Channel, this PowerPoint Presentation outlining Bandyopadhyay et al’s “Acquisitive Crime: Imprisonment, Detection and Social Factors” (2012) research is now available in two forms:

    1. Click to advance Presentation.

    2. Auto-advance Presentation.

    The research looked at three main questions:

  • How are crime rates affected by the costs and benefits of crime?
  • Does sentencing reduce crime?
  • Are short sentences more effective than long sentences?
  • The quantitative analysis of crime rates covered a 16-year period (1992 – 2008) and examined 4 types of crime:

  • burglary
  • theft and handling
  • fraud and forgery
  • robbery.
  • This updated PowerPoint Presentation corrects a couple of spelling errors, uses an embedded font for correct display on machines that don’t have the required font installed and adjusts the Presentation to Widescreen.

    Sociological Stories: Broken Windows Revisited

    Sunday, September 5th, 2021

    This attempt to create something a little different in PowerPoint expands on the first effort by being significantly longer, around 50 slides, split into three separate-but-related sections and dotted with a few choice bits of online video and hyperlinks (for which you will obviously need to be connected to the Internet).

    Although it’s made in PowerPoint, it isn’t “A PowerPoint” in the conventional sense of both “sticking bullet points on a page” and being intended for teacher-led instruction.

    Rather, it’s more a kiosk-type Presentation designed to be read by individual students as a kind of “sociological story” about Broken Windows. To this end the 3 sections are as follows:

    1. Intro and Overview is probably the most-conventional section in terms of A-Level / High School requirements in that it covers a number of the broad strength and weaknesses of Broken Windows.

    2. The Ecological Context delves into the theoretical background of Broken Windows in order to examine the claim that we can understand crime and criminality through the lens communal pressures to conform or deviate. As such, it’s a section that students can delve into if they’re particularly interested although, at A / High School level it’s probably not that important. It’s also an area teachers can summarise fairly easily and concisely if needed.

    3. The Order Maintenance section deals mainly with Zero-Tolerance Policing and is mainly interesting because of the way it looks at Zimbardo’s “Anonymity of Place” in the light of new research on the experiment. It also introduces an interesting natural experiment recently (2017) carried-out in New York that not only casts grave doubt on the effectiveness of Zero-Tolerance Policing but also tentatively suggests it may be the cause of many of the problems it claims to resolve.

    Because the Presentation is made for PowerPoint 2019 / 365 (If you try to load it into previous versions of PowerPoint it will not function as intended) it can only be downloaded in a PowerPoint Show (.ppsx) format. This means it will happily run independently of PowerPoint, whatever – or no – version of PowerPoint you have.

    Broken Windows Revisited | 3: Proactive Policing

    Wednesday, August 18th, 2021

    The 3rd and final part of our Broken Windows reassessment looks at the latest American research that questions the claim proactive / Zero Tolerance policing prevents minor forms of social disorder developing into major forms.

    S-L-O-W-

    In two previous posts re-examining Broken Windows we’ve considered both its general theoretical and empirical background and its theoretical origins in ecological theories of crime. In this third and final part we assess one of Broken Windows’ key theoretical components: the claim that minor forms of social disorder, if allowed to go unchecked, result in major forms of disorder. Or, as Wilson and Kelling (1982) originally put it:

    If a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken…one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing”.

    If, as its proponents claim, relatively minor forms of social disorder lead to larger, more-serious, forms of criminal disorder – as Bratton and Kelling (2015) have more-recently expressed it “A neighbourhood where minor offenses go unchallenged soon becomes a breeding ground for more serious criminal activity and, ultimately, for violence” – the way to control the latter is to prevent the former and one way of doing this, introduced by the New York Police Department (NYPD) in the late 1990s, was through a system of proactive policing.

    This broadly involved police officers “on the street” taking a more-active role in either trying to prevent criminal activity before it occurred (through things like dispersing loitering groups of young men, stopping and searching potential offenders and so forth) or by immediately punishing every instance of criminal or misdemeanour activity, through things like spot-fines and arrests, the moment it occurred. This particular form of Order Maintenance Policing (OMP) has come to be known as Zero-Tolerance Policing (ZTP) because the police exhibit no tolerance towards any offender, no-matter how trivial or seemingly inconsequential the offence.

    As an aside, it’s important to note that while ZTP is often seen as synonymous with Broken Windows, we shouldn’t conflate the two: Broken Windows doesn’t necessarily involve Zero Tolerance Policing, even though the two are frequently seen to be one and the same thing. There are a number of different ways of preventing the escalation of minor forms of disorder into major forms, of which ZTP is but one – although ZTP has, particularly in America, been increasingly used by forces such as the NYPD as the primary or de facto way of putting Broken Windows into practice.

    One of the reasons Broken Windows has come to be influential with politicians, police and public alike is that it has a certain face validity; that is, it seems like a plausible way to both explain how and why crime develops in a particular locality and, by extension, how to prevent criminal behaviour spiralling out of control.

    Part of the reason for this is that the idea of major forms of disorder stemming from unchecked minor forms is something that has a certain resonance with our everyday personal experience. If you think, for example, about a work desk that you gradually allow to become cluttered with books and papers, it eventually becomes difficult and time-consuming to find the things you need: “major” disorder, in other words, stemming from untreated minor disorders…

    While you could, every once in a while, instigate a “big clean-up” it might be easier to keep things tidy while you work. This takes a bit more effort and willpower but should, all things being equal, save you time and effort in the long run…

    The problem here, however, is that societies are not like individuals and “maintaining social order” can be much more difficult than maintaining a tidy desk – particularly if the area that requires maintaining is home to a wide range of poverty-stricken individuals and families who don’t necessarily maintain strong social and moral ties.

    This, in terms of Broken Windows, is where proactive policing enters the picture: as a way of imposing some sort of order on a situation that tends towards the disorderly. This, on the face of things, seems to make sense in terms of our general understanding of social order and disorder but the problem we have is how to test this idea. How, for example, can we evaluate the validity of the Broken Windows argument “in the real world” of offenders and control agents?

    One obvious way would be to compare an area that had been subject to proactive forms of ZTP with the same area at a later point when ZTP was no-longer in operation – and this is exactly what Sullivan and O’Keeffe (2017) were able to do thanks to an opportunity to conduct a natural experiment in New York in late 2014, early 2015.

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    Census Unearthed: Small Area Statistics

    Thursday, August 12th, 2021

    As the name suggests, “Small Area Statistics” generate vast amounts of data that delve in great detail into people’s experiences and behaviours “at the local level”.

    In this particular instance the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has used “recently digitised data from the 1961 Census Small Area Statistics” in England and Wales to provide highly-detailed comparative data about people’s lives that can be used in a couple of ways:

    Firstly, it tells us a great deal about regional differences 50 years ago in relation to things like material inequality (East Anglia, the South-West of England and most of Wales for example, were among the very poorest areas in 1961), population demographics (such as age profiles) and cultural changes in relation to things like marriage and divorce.

    Secondly, by comparing data from the 1961 Census to data from the most-recently analysed 2011 Census we can track demographic changes across both England and Wales and different regions within and between each country over a 50-year period.

    Census unearthed: explore 50 years of change was produced with the help of “2,800 volunteers who made 5.5 million checks to help turn scans of the 1961 Census Small Area Statistics into digital tables” and provides both written data and interactive online maps that can be used to explore 50 years of social and material change across categories like:

  • Household amenities, such as access to indoor toilets and a fixed bath.
  • Marriage and divorce.
  • Population size and change.
  • Levels of renting (private and public) and home ownership.
  • Urbanisation, life expectancy and declining birth rates.
  • PowerPoint: Defining Mass Media v2

    Wednesday, August 4th, 2021

    When I posted the previous version of this PowerPoint Presentation I included the rider that I’d have a go at making it “More-Prezi” and “Less-PowerPoint”, by which I meant doing away with the semi-linear structure of the original and replacing it with the kind of open structure characteristic of Prezi Presentations.

    This, I’m happy to say, has now been achieved by creating new version of the Defining Mass Media Presentation with a “Main Menu” screen from which you can access all slides in the Presentation at any time and in any order you want.

    Defining Mass Media v2

    This, as you might expect, has created a new set of navigation problems because the information in the Presentation was designed as a broadly-hierarchical, rather than flat, structure – by which I mean that in terms of the Presentation structure it’s helpful (and possibly essential) to read and understand one thing (the Major Point) before you examine various aspects of it (the Subsidiary Points).

    To get around this I’ve made Major Point links larger than their Subsidiary Point links. The initial “Start or Introduction” link is, for example, largest of all and gives you a strong hint about where to begin. I’ve also introduced branches linking everything together. In other words, you have strong clues about where to begin by looking at the overall structure map and seeing which branches lead from what to where.

    And if that doesn’t seem totally clear now, once you look at the Start Slide it will become perfectly obvious.

    That, among other things, is my promise to you.

    As with the previous version, this Presentation is only available as a PowerPoint Show (.ppsx) self-running file. This is because if you try to load a .pptx version into a pre-2019 copy of PowerPoint it will strip-out the Zoom animation function on which everything rests.

    And the Presentation will not work as intended.

    Which would be a pity (although not a disaster because it may still work after a fashion).

    Possibly.

    I can’t promise it will so I’d be inclined not to try.

    PowerPoint: Defining Mass media

    Monday, August 2nd, 2021

    If, like me, you’ve always had a sneaking liking for Prezi-style Presentations you’ll probably be aware that the only way to create them was, oddly-enough, by using Prezi.

    Defining Mass Media: Prezi-Stylee

    Which, in the past wasn’t too much of a problem because you could just use it to create whatever you liked for free.

    But that was then.

    And this is now.

    Which means you’ve only got a couple of choices:

  • Either use the free (and very limited) version that only allows you to make 5 Presentations.
  • Or pay for the “educational version”, which, at £36 a year is quite steep for what you get. And, quite frankly, if you’ve got that kind of money sloshing around in your school / college kitty you could put it to much better use.
  • Or so they would have you believe.

    Because the 2019 version of PowerPoint has a neat little Zoom animation feature that allows you to create “Prezi-style” freeform narrative Presentations without having to shell-out for a Prezi-style subscription.

    Even better, you can pick-up the 2019 Home and Student edition of Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint and Excel) for £19.99 if you know where to look – which in this instance is SoftMall UK. You might, if you’re lucky, get stuff like OneNote, Outlook and Publisher thrown-in (although I can’t promise the latter – they were just included in a Microsoft promotion when I bought my copy and that may, or may not, have ended now).

    But back to the point of this post.

    Having (admittedly by accident) discovered the Zoom animation in my shiny new version of PowerPoint I thought I’d try using it to put together a slightly-different, for me at least, style of Presentation: one that focused a bit more on developing a broad narrative structure to a PowerPoint Presentation, as opposed to the more-usual “key point” linear structure I tend to favour.

    Movement around the Presentation is also slightly-unusual. While forward navigation uses (left-click) hyperlinks via the circular, labelled, graphics, you back-out of these by right-clicking. That is, a right mouse click will always take you back one slide.

    Since this is my first attempt it’s not quite there: the Presentation I’ve created (Defining Mass Media if you’re interested) still has a quasi-linear structure that uses a basic menu system (mainly because I decided to include a short video I made a few years back…).

    But it’s a start and I have a few ideas about how to make it “More-Prezi” and “Less-PowerPoint” that I might put into effect at some point if I can be bothered.

    I’ve made the Presentation available as a PowerPoint Show (.ppsx) self-running file because if you have an earlier version of PowerPoint it won’t run as a .pptx file (because these versions don’t have the Zoom animation function).

    Theory / Concept Maps

    Monday, July 19th, 2021

    Theory (or Concept) Maps are printables students can use to clarify and organise their ideas about key theories and / or concepts in sociology or psychology.

    Click to download pdf file

    In other words, they’re a teaching and learning tool that’s designed to be printed and completed by hand.

    In the Theory Map File I’ve included both an example file – where I’ve indicated “what goes where” in each box – and a blank file that’s ready and waiting to be printed and completed.

    Whenever a student encounters a new Theory or Concept they want to record and evaluate, all they need to do is print-off, complete and store a new page.

    I’ve tried to keep the Map as simple and concise as possible to encourage students to see it as a relatively quick and painless way to create a revision-type resource they construct throughout their course. To this end, the Map has three basic levels that need to be successfully completed:

    1. An indication of the Theory or Concept being discussed.

    2. A short description of 3 Key Traits associated with the Theory / Concept.

    3. For each Key Trait, a short explanation of evidence that supports the Theory / Concept and an equally short explanation of any evidence that contradicts or criticises the Theory / Concept.

    The Maps are sufficiently flexible to be used in a variety of contexts – whole-class, small group or individual – and they encourage students to effectively create a glossary of key theories / concepts with the added bonus of getting them to think about evaluative evidence linked to the main ideas as they’re doing it.

    Study Rocket: A-Level Psychology Revision Resource

    Thursday, July 15th, 2021

    Study Rocket seems to have begun life as a revision web site for a range of subjects, one of which was – and still is to a large extent – AQA Psychology A-level.

    Study Rocket…

    I say “was” for a couple of reasons:

    Firstly, because the site now advertises the fact “we’ve decided to make all of our content totally free for everyone to use, forever”, which suggests it wasn’t in the past.

    Secondly, it seems to have now pivoted towards an app that allows students to create “personalised revision timetables” (whatever they may turn-out to be…).

    And finally, it looks like it’s become something of a ghost site that’s unlikely to ever be updated.

    This, however, is not something that need detain us further because, when all’s-said-and-done, what we have here is a shed-load of revision material stretched across three main areas:

  • Introducing Topics in Psychology
  • Issues & Options in Psychology
  • Psychology in Context.
  • The resource is a combination of pithy Notes – relatively simple explanations of topics coupled with short evaluation points (a la just about every printed revision text ever) – a few pix / graphics and, quite interestingly, short embedded videos dotted around the text.

    If you want to see all the available videos – 15 short animated films, around 2 – 4 minutes in length – you can do so via the Study Rocket YouTube Channel.

    The Real CSI

    Thursday, July 8th, 2021

    The Centre for Social Investigation – not to be confused with the long-running TV series – was established at Nuffield College in 2014 as an “interdisciplinary research programme” with the aim of addressing “contemporary social issues of public interest”.

    To which end, the upshot of all this collaborative enterprise and expertise is a series of Reports, ranging across social inequality, family life and crime, that are a potentially useful resource for Sociology teachers – particularly since each Report runs to just 4 pages and is packed with statistical analysis and insightful commentary.

    As an added bonus each Report has a student-friendly bulleted summary of its Key Points – something you can check-out by browsing some or all of the following selection:

    (more…)

    Mass Media: Who Owns the UK Media?

    Wednesday, July 7th, 2021
    Click to Download

    Reasonably through and up-to-date information about UK Media Ownership is always a useful resource and this publication, Who Owns the UK Media?, from Media Reform UK (a Pressure Group that promotes reform of UK Media (there’s probably a clue in the name) is something Media Sociology teachers should find helpful for a couple of reasons:

    Firstly,  because it’s only a couple of years old (published in 2019).

    Secondly because it covers a wide range of online and offline media in some detail (including information on things like readership / viewership, income and the like).

    Equally-usefully, this is a revised and updated version of the original 2015 Ownership Report which means it’s possible to track and compare changes in economic ownership over the past 5 or so years in relation to:

  • UK National Newspapers (offline and online versions)
  • UK Local Newspapers
  • The New Digital Journalism
  • New Media Platforms and Intermediaries (e.g. Facebook, Twitter)
  • Share of UK Search
  • Social Media and News Consumption
  • UK Terrestrial TV
  • UK Subscription Video-On-Demand
  • Radio (Analogues and Digital) and Podcasting.
  • (more…)

    Doing Nothing as Deviance

    Tuesday, July 6th, 2021
    Doing Nothing…

    “What are you doing?”

    “Nothing”

    “No, really. What are you doing?”

    “I’m. Doing. Nothing”.

    While breaking social norms is always a fun and interesting way to get students to think sociologically about the world in which they live and generally take-for-granted, it’s not always something that’s easy to do / demonstrate in a safe and secure way.

    People, for example, tend to get upset and unpredictable if you mess around with their normative expectations and while this, somewhat perversely, is precisely the effect you want to see and study it’s not always possible or desirable to take the risk.

    Unless, of course, you get your students to “Do Nothing”.

    While this, in my vast experience, is a suggestion most students are generally open and amenable to doing, there is a catch.

    For this sociological experiment your students must actively “Do Nothing” for 10 – 15 minutes…

    What You Need To Do…

    When you think about it, “doing nothing” in a public place is actually very rare. People in such spaces are usually “doing something” (even if it’s just “hanging around” or “waiting for someone”). So what happens when you literally “Do Nothing” in public?

    That’s what your students are going to discover in a simple sociological experiment that requires little or no preparation, costs nothing (except 10 minutes or so of your time) and can be carried-out anywhere there’s a reasonable level of foot traffic (such as a school or college grounds).

    Keep in mind that this probably isn’t something you want to do out in the big wide world – such as a busy shopping mall – because you need to be able to observe and control the behaviour of your students. In this respect, the optimum place to create the experiment is in school or college grounds if you have reasonable access to such a space.

    When you’ve chosen the space you’re going to use, get your students to chose somewhere where they can stand completely still. This should preferably be somewhere they don’t cause undue obstruction to people passing by (for reasons you can profitably discuss if you want when you debrief the experimenters).

    Ask them to maintain complete stillness for around 10 – 15 minutes. The only exception to this rule is if anyone approaches them and asks them what they’re doing. They should always reply to any question with the phrase “I’m doing nothing” (again, the reason for this standard response is something you might want to discuss later in the context of experimental research methodology in terms of variable control).

    For the purpose of the experiment it might be useful, if you can, to split your class into participants and observers. While the former are “doing nothing” it would be helpful for the later to record their observations about how passers-by behave when they see students “doing nothing” (take pictures of their facial expressions, make notes of what they say and so forth).

    And if this process isn’t clear, perhaps the easiest way to explain it is to show it being done…

    And After You’ve Done it…

    Back in the classroom there are numerous opportunities to reference this simple experiment right across the Sociology Specification – from a simple introduction to norms and normative disruption, to the social construction of reality, research methodology (particularly but not exclusively, experiments – including Goffman’s breeching experiments), concepts of crime, deviance, conformity, social order and the like.

    In terms of the latter, for example, an obvious question to ask is why might standing still and “doing nothing” be seen as deviant behaviour whereas if the students had been sitting down “doing nothing” it probably wouldn’t?

    Reference

    Halnon, Karen Bettez (2001) “The Sociology of Doing Nothing: A Model “Adopt a Stigma in a Public Place” Exercise

    Hybrid Knowledge Organisers

    Monday, July 5th, 2021

    Knowledge Organisers (or Learning Tables if you prefer) have become something of a standard teaching and learning tool at both GCSE and A-level and while you may or may not find them helpful, one problem I’ve always found with them is the deceptively-simple one that they focus on knowledge.

    But one of the key things at both High School and A-level is that “knowing stuff”, while necessary, is not sufficient. An important dimension to study at this level is what students are able to do with what they know, in terms of things like applying knowledge to sociological questions, the ability to use some forms of knowledge to criticise others, to draw conclusions from their applications and criticisms and so forth.

    Hybrid Organiser Template

    A potential weakness of knowledge organisers, therefore, is that they have a tendency to encourage students to see “knowledge” as the most important element of study at this level; as long as you “know the right stuff” everything will be okay – a mindset that can difficult for teachers to dislodge.

    In thinking about how to resolve this problem I came across an idea by Paul Moss that combines the knowledge organiser with both retrieval practice and techniques of essay-writing.

    Which, all things considered, is no small achievement.

    And quite possibly an Act of Genius.

    Although Moss originally developed and applied his hybrid Organiser to English Literature A-level I’ve adapted it to what I think fits more easily with the needs of Social Science teachers (although the example I’m going to use here is based on Sociology – because that’s the subject content I’m most familiar with – it’s equally-applicable to subjects like Psychology).

    Where the original focused on a particular text (such as King Lear), my reformulation focuses on theories and theorists as the basis for getting students to organise their knowledge about a particular Module or Unit (most-likely the latter given the large amounts of knowledge content covered by Sociology (and Psychology) students).

    (more…)

    Essay Planning: Killing The Question

    Sunday, July 4th, 2021

    This is an idea that I found on an old Rachel Whitfield blog page that I’ve pimped-up a bit but which is essentially her’s – although part of the attraction, for me, was that it fitted quite neatly into my own ideas about Sociology students taking on the role of Sociological Detectives.

    PowerPoint Walkthrough

    In this particular case the role-playing scenario is an essay-planning exercise that can be run at any point in a course although I guess it would probably be most effective at the end of a Module, such as Crime and Deviance, when your students are likely to have a good familiarity with the content required to answer an essay-type question.

    Although the following details how to run the revision sim I’ve put together a short PowerPoint Presentation that walks you through the process if you need it.

    (more…)

    Psychology Transition Materials

    Thursday, July 1st, 2021

    As with their sociological peers, Psychology teachers have also been busy producing a wide range of materials designed, in the main, to ease the transition between GCSE and A-level and this means there’s plenty of resources freely available to either use “as is” or, more-likely perhaps, to inspire the creation of your own transition resources.

    Transition Pack: Prep Work 2

    I’ve tried to provide a fair spread of different types of transition resource, but while some teachers provide materials that take a slightly off-beat and novel approach, most of the stuff is fairly standard, straightforward “research and make notes” material. This doesn’t, of course, somehow make it bad or less useful but I do like to see a bit of innovation…

    Summer Work 2021: This features a simple “complete the table” activity of psychological perspectives combined with 4 exam-style questions that test mathematical understanding.

    The Stanford Prison Experiment: General plan from which students are required to research and write 600-word essay on the SPE.

    Chelmer Valley Transition Tasks: These consist of three types: a Creative Task based on a mini experiments; a Writing Task that involves producing a handout on Milgram’s Obedience Experiment and a Reading Task that involves producing a Mind Map from a specified article.

    Summer work: Students research and answer questions on two major psychological approaches.

    A Level Summer Work 2021: YouTube podcast designed to introduce students to the “Fundamentals of Psychology” while also trying to assess independent study and written communication skills through a range of tasks (from written work to watching YT videos). The podcast makes reference to “study sheets” that aren’t available to the casual viewer but if you find this approach interesting you’ll probably find a way around this problem. If you want to go down the more-traditional transition route, there’s also a short pack available with activities mainly based around research methods.

    Psychology Transition Pack: The basic Pack consists of 4 tasks with varying degrees of difficulty- from researching different approaches, through creating an historical timeline to opening a Twitter account, following a few suggested accounts and making notes on any interesting news that appears relevant to psychology. There are, however, some further optional Packs: Bridging the Gap “gives you a flavour of what A level Psychology is all about” by introducing some core psychological concepts and processes via a range of tasks (do a bit of research, answer some questions…) and exercises (such as designing a piece of research). Prep Work 2 involves a variety of tasks (from 15 minutes to 2 hours…) that variously involves watching things like TED talks and summarising the arguments, producing a handout or PowerPoint and the like. Prep Work 3 offers more of the same (although some of the links are broken).

    Psychology Induction Summer Work: Designed to introduce the skills and some of the content required for A-level, this pack offers a wide range of activities designed to “Introduce Psychology”. There’s also a recommended reading and viewing list for good measure.

    Year 12 Transition 2017: 3 tasks built around researching some key studies and writing about them in a structured way.

    Psychology Summer Work: Another “Time Line” activity (I find it interesting that while Time Line creation features in a lot of the psychology transition materials, it’s something that’s entirely absent from the sociology transition materials) plus creating factsheets to illustrate different psychological theories (from attachment to BoBo dolls…).

    (more…)

    Sociology Transition Materials

    Wednesday, June 30th, 2021

    If you’re unfamiliar with the idea, Sociology transition materials are resources designed to help students transition from either GCSE to A-level or from A1 to A2.

    Sociology Work Pack

    In the normal course of events they consist of notes, readings, activities and exercises that students complete during the long months of their summer holidays when they would otherwise be engaged in looking at their mobile phones, lazing around on the beach, getting into all kinds of mischief or whatever it is “The Kids” do these days when not being closely supervised.

    I’m exaggerating a bit (possibly) because, quite honestly, I’ve no idea what Young People do with their spare time. We all suspect, however, they could be using it more-productively, hence, this batch of Transition Materials I’ve cobbled-together from a wide variety of sources to help you keep your students occupied and prepare them for whatever it is you have planned when the new teaching year begins.

    And that, of course, is Always Closer Than You Think.

    While, like me, you could be forgiven for thinking this is yet another “new initiative” designed to “improve student performance” across a “range of educational parameters” (Prop. G. Williamson), there’s actually quite a long(ish) history of providing students with preparatory work for A-level, although I’m guessing the materials are much more tightly focused on the curriculum than they were in the past.

    In my case, my first introduction to Sociology was a Reading List supplied by my putative teacher that ran to a couple of pages and consisted of a variety of texts, some explicitly sociological (such as Berger’s classic Invitation to Sociology), some generally sociological (such as Akenfield, Blythe’s social history of an English village) and some just of broad sociological import – Capote’s “factionalised” novel In Cold Blood being a case in point). This summer work consisted of “reading as many of the texts as possible” and while it was never marked – or indeed mentioned again – it was an interesting and informative use of my time.

    Speaking of which, times change and I hope you find it interesting to see the different approaches taken by a lot of hard-working teachers to either prepare their prospective a-level students for their new course or to ease the transition between the first and final year of the course.

    Whether you use the materials “as is” or simply as the basis for the development of your own specific materials is, of course, entirely up to you. Either way, having a quick look through what I’ve collected might save you a bit of time and effort.

    And since I’ve somehow managed to gather quite an extensive range of materials I’ve divided them into two broad categories (GCSE – A-level and A1 – A2) and provided a brief overview of their contents. This should go some small way to helping you find the materials that best-fit your purpose.

    (more…)

    Of Mice and Monkeys: Ethical Issues in Animal Research

    Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

    Over the course of the last century, psychological research has become increasingly governed by a strict code of ethics that cover things like obtaining participants’ consent, protecting them from possible harm and allowing them to withdraw from the research at any time and for whatever reason.

    But there’s also a class of “research participant” who can’t give their consent, may be harmed and are categorically unable to withdraw from the research.

    Psychology has a long and well-established history of using non-human animals for a variety of research purposes – from conditioning to attachment theory – and this short film has been designed to introduce some of the key ethical issues surrounding the use of animals in both historical and contemporary contexts through the use of four key questions:

  • Why are animals used in psychological research?
  • What are the (human) benefits that flow from such research?
  • What is being done to protect animals from potential harm in psychological research?
  • To what extent is any form of non-human animal research a breach of their rights?
  • Of Mice and Monkeys: Ethical Issues in Animal Research is now available to:

    Rent (around 75p for 7 days) or

    Buy (£4.25 to keep forever…).

    Custom Software Guides

    Monday, June 28th, 2021
    PowerPoint 2019

    Custom Guides are free pdf quick reference sheets designed to get you up-and-running quickly and efficiently with a range of Microsoft and Google software (plus one or two others, such as Zoom).

    The currently available Guides cover:

    Microsoft: Access, Excel, Office 365, OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Project, SharePoint, Teams, Windows 10, Word.

    Google: Gmail, Calendar, Chrome, Classroom, Docs, Drive, Forms, Meet, Sheets, Slides.

    Although each Guide is slightly different, depending on the software – some feature Keyboard shortcuts and a section on “Getting Started”, for example – the main focus of each is a range of Topics covering key features of the software.

    While these are all briefly explained in the Guide you can, if necessary, explore them in more detail through the use of links to extended online tutorials that provide detailed walkthroughs of the Topic in question.

    Thinking Tools

    Sunday, June 13th, 2021
    Thinking Tools

    Although I’ve previously posted about the Eduqas Digital Educational Resources for both GCSE and A-level Sociology and Psychology, I thought  it might be worth drawing your attention to a section called “Thinking Tools” that can easily get missed what with all the free resources and all.

    This would be a pity because although it’s not going to win any prizes for radical innovation, it’s a section that contains a few (7 to be overly-precise) simple online exercises that you might find helpful and / or useful:

  • 3-2-1
  • 66 words
  • Funnelling
  • Question and Answer tool
  • Evaluate concept map
  • Reflection frame 1
  • Reflection frame 2
  • There’s also a handy Teachers Guide available if you need any help using the Tools, but since they’re all fairly self-explanatory you probably won’t need it to work out how to use any of them.

    Each Tool has a couple of associated menu options:

  • A Drawing Tool option that seems to have no discernible purpose other than to allow you / your students to draw random lines in different colours on the page. I had a lot of fun doing just that for about 39 seconds before I realised I had no idea what it’s purpose was supposed to be.
  • A Print option that not only allows you to print an exercise, completed or otherwise, but also to save it as a pdf file (and while this is just a matter of printing to a file rather than a piece of paper if you didn’t know you could do this it’s quite a handy thing to discover…). The ability to create some form of hard copy is a plus here because you can’t directly save any information you type into any of the tools…
  • Although the Tools have been created by the Eduqas Exam Board there’s nothing here that can’t be used by teachers with other exam boards.

    Mr Cooper’s Sociology Class

    Tuesday, June 8th, 2021

    Mr Cooper’s Sociology Class is probably best-described as a kind of online scheme of work for his students at Broomfield High School in Colorado.

    Or at least it was because in 2016 Mr Cooper left the school, maybe for a better-paid position, maybe for greater coaching opportunities (one of Mr Cooper’s big passions is Football, the American variety, rather than the one where you actually kick a ball…), maybe a combination of the above.

    Something I mention not to give the impression I’ve been stalking Mr Cooper into his new position as Athletic Director / Assistant Principal but to make you aware this site hasn’t been updated since he left.

    So, it’s suffering a little from bit-rot in places (some links have started to break), although this just seems to affect some of the external picture links. The internal links to things like Google Docs are still more-or-less intact.

    For how long is anyone’s guess.

    So, if you want to grab any of the teaching and learning goodies on offer it might be an idea to get ‘em while you still can.

    The class was divided into 9 Units that will be broadly familiar whatever Sociology Specification you happen to be teaching:

    1 Sociological Perspective

    2 Culture

    3 Social Structure

    4 Understanding Adolescence

    5 Deviance and Social Control

    6 Social Stratification

    7 Inequalities of Race & Ethnicity

    8 Inequalities of Gender and Age

    9 Independent Research in Sociology

    Each Unit has an associated Calendar that provides an overview of class content, although this is a little esoteric and bound-up with stuff that actually took-place in each class (such as “Reading Chapter 7” without knowing which textbook was used in the class…).

    More-usefully, there’s quite a range of supporting material provided by Mr Cooper for each of his sessions, with the most useful being PowerPoint Presentations and Google Docs you can download and adapt, if necessary, to your own particular requirements: the main Deviance and Control Presentation, for example, runs to 56 slides so there’s probably stuff here you might want to use. There’s also a “Warm-Up” Presentation that will, at the very least, provide some interesting ideas for introducing a topic like Deviance.

    While, as you might expect, a lot of the material is geared very much to American lives and experiences, there’s probably enough here to make a trawl through the materials worthwhile.

    The Learning Scientists: Free Revision Resources

    Monday, June 7th, 2021

    Over the past 5 or so years I’ve posted a few times about the revision resources provided by The Learning Scientists: from retrieval practice and spaced study booklets to simple video explainers about the basic science behind successful forms of revision.

    Poster…

    This latest post brings together a new set of resources designed to help teachers and students develop successful revision strategies, grouped into 6 separate, but related, topics:

  • Spaced Practice
  • Retrieval Practice
  • Elaboration
  • Interleaving
  • Concrete Examples
  • Dual Coding.
  • Each of the above leads to a range of resources designed to help you teach / illustrate the topic:

  • A classroom display Poster
  • A PowerPoint Presentation that walks students through the basic ideas underpinning the topic.
  • Cut-out-and-keep Bookmarks that outline the basics of a topic and prompt students to reflect on information they’ve previously read.
  • A set of sticker templates you’re unlikely to use unless you and your students are Really Into Sticker Culture. And even then, I’d say it was probably marginal.
  • A short (2 – 3 minute) YouTube video explainer.
  • While it’s important to note that applying any or all of these revision techniques is no guarantee of exam success – as the Learning Scientists note, “We cannot guarantee success, and we cannot predict students’ grades based on the use of these strategies. There are a lot of variables at play during learning…” – their efficacy is at least based on cogitative psychological evidence about what does and doesn’t work when it comes to effective revision.

    Which is, you’ll probably agree, something.

    Mapping Gender Identities

    Sunday, June 6th, 2021

    The classical sociological distinction between “biological sex” and “cultural gender” is based on the idea of a more-or-less fixed binary biological classification (“male” and “female”) and a more-or-less fluid set of cultural characteristics (“masculinities” and “femininities”) that are, to some extent, associated with, or expressive of, these biological categories.

    Gender Map

    In other words, classical concepts of gender relate to a variety of ways people express their individual and collective beliefs about the meaning of masculinity or femininity.

    While “biological sex”, is, in this respect, a fairly simple, straightforward and relatively-inflexible concept (in most contemporary Western societies, for example, you can legally only be male or female, either through birth or, in some instances, legal transition), “gender” is a more-complex and highly-malleable concept that has the potential to be endlessly interpreted and reinterpreted in relation to both personal and social identities.

    Partly because gender has such a plasticity when it comes to how it is constructed and practiced, its given expression over the past few years to an increasingly wide range of positions that have become difficult to track – which is where this handy Gender Identity Map created by the LGBT Health and Development Programme at Northwestern University, Illinois might come in useful.

    (more…)

    British Social Attitudes

    Friday, June 4th, 2021

    The latest issue (No. 37) of British Social Attitudes provides a useful cache of opinion data from NatCen – “Britain’s largest independent social research agency” – on a number of issues of interest to sociology teachers looking to update their knowledge about what, not to put too fine a point on things, the “Great British Public Thinks About Stuff”.

    In this issue I’ve highlighted 3 chapters I thought we probably most-relevant to A-level teaching:

    Family Life: Attitudes to non-traditional family behaviours “examines changing attitudes to social norms related to five aspects of family life, including choosing to remain childless, cohabitation without marriage, children born outside of marriage, full-time work with young children, and divorce with children”. There’s also comparative data between the UK and a selected set of European countries.

    Social Inequality: Attitudes towards social inequality in England and Scotland “seeks to understand the differences and similarities in attitudes to social inequality in England and Scotland”.

    Fairness and Justice “explores the extent to which the British public believes that the political and judicial system and the distribution of wealth in Britain is fair and just”. Again, there’s also useful comparative data between the UK and Europe.

    A number of previous issues (currently 28 – 36) are also available to browse and download .

    Secularisation: The Decline of Religion?

    Monday, May 31st, 2021

    Secularisation theory – the idea that as societies modernise they become less-religious in outlook and governance – is not only a key component in the Sociology of Religion, it’s also a relatively complex set of ideas with which students need to get to grips when presenting a coherent evaluative argument around the topic in an exam.

    One possible way to make it easier for students to structure such arguments is to get them to think along two related lines:

    1. Belonging without Believing

    This involves questioning the over-easy assumption that in pre-modern societies “religion was everywhere” in the sense that it both dominated people’s lives and involved a necessarily strong and lasting commitment to the religious beliefs and practices of, first the Roman Catholic Church and, subsequently, the Church of England.

    While conventional measures of religiosity, such as church attendance, were clearly very, very, high in Medieval England we shouldn’t simply assume attendance equates to high levels of belief. There may well, for example, be a much wider set of social processes at work promoting religious attendance.

    These range from, on the one hand, coercive forms of social control – there were huge normative pressures placed on people living in relatively small, close-knit, communities to conform to the prevailing religious orthodoxy in Medieval society – to, on the other, incentives to attend services that had little or nothing to do with religious beliefs and quite a lot to do with the generally harsh lives lived by the majority of the population.

    For one thing, being given a day-off from back-breaking agricultural labour to attend church was probably seen as something of an attractive bonus rather than the largely-incomprehensible service it undoubtedly was for most. It wasn’t, for example, until the mid-16th century that the use of an English Bible – as opposed to one printed in Latin – was authorised. Even then it took until the early 17th century and the 1611 King James Version of the Bible before church services started to be conducted in English…

    For another, religious feast days were important parts of the Medieval calendar in a society where popular forms of entertainment were severely lacking. Medieval peasants could, for example, count on at least one such feast a month ­- with something like Christmas extending over a couple of weeks – with the key qualification for such events being church membership. In contemporary parlance, a “strict door policy” meant that if you weren’t a member, you didn’t get in – which was probably sufficient for most to at least profess a certain level of belief in order to avail themselves of the benefits of membership.

    (more…)

    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.

    (more…)

    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