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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.

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.

    GCSE Sociology Workbooks

    Wednesday, July 14th, 2021
    Research Methods Workbook

    This is a set of Booklets / Workbooks created, according to the metadata, by Jennifer Croft for the Eduqas GCSE Sociology Specification – a slightly-underwhelming introduction that doesn’t do justice to the scope of the resources and the amount of work that must have gone into creating them.

    In all there are 8 Booklets, covering the Specification in full, although “Research Methods” actually covers two separate Modules (Applied methods of sociological enquiry and Sociological Research Methods) and Crime and Deviance is covered across 3 separate Booklets. Each Booklet is divided into 3 discreate sections:

    1. The body of the resource is given-over to a wide variety of notes, tasks, questions and exercises, some of which refer to “the textbook” by page number – such as when students are asked to provide definitions of key terms. Given there aren’t a massive number of Eduqas textbooks available this will probably be a self-evident reference for most teachers.

    For those using the resources with another Specification (such as AQA, WJEC or a non-UK Syllabus) or textbook, you will have to edit these references accordingly to fit whatever resources you use. For this reason I’ve left the Booklets in Word format to make them easy to edit. You can also add or remove material that you want to include / exclude.

    While, as I’ve been at pains to point-out, these resources have been designed for Eduqas there’s plenty of convergence between this Specification and other Specifications. For teachers of the latter, some judicious editing should bring everything into line with whatever Specification you follow.

    2. Retrieval Practice: This is an increasingly standard form of revision practice and each Booklet has space for students to practice their retrieval techniques – even though this just consists of blank pages…

    3. Additional Notes: There’s further space at the end of each Booklet for students to add their own additional notes to the materials.

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    NES Social Science: Free Resources

    Saturday, July 10th, 2021

    One of the things about WordPress blogs is their legendary persistence.

    Once created they just sit there, regardless of whether you decide to move-on to whatever it is teachers move on to.

    PowerPoint Presentations…

    And sometimes this is a Good Thing because it means that even if a site is no-longer being updated there may well be stuff left laying around just waiting for someone to come along and find it.

    Which seems to be the case with this blog whose active heyday seems to have been a four-year spell between August 2015 and February 2019.

    Since when. Nothing.

    There’s not much clue as to who made it. And if I’m not mistaken most, if not all, of the resources have been brought together from a variety of different authors and sources. But this shouldn’t detain us overmuch because what’s been left is a load of resources – mainly PowerPoint Presentations, but also some Word documents – that you’re definitely going to find useful and helpful.

    The main sets of resources are divided into 5 familiar categories, particularly if you follow the AQA Specification, of varying depth and detail:

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    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.

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    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…).

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    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

    Gender and Educational Achievement

    Friday, March 12th, 2021
    Download Pdf Copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Sociology Revision Blasts

    Thursday, March 11th, 2021

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

    Chatty. And Definitely Not Dull.

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

    Some see this as reinforcement.

    Some see this as redundancy.

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

    Anyway, I digress.

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

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

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

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

    Webinars

    Podcasts with Pictures: Evaluating Sociological Research Methods

    Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Realism and Crime | Animated

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

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

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

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

    One-Minute Marxism and Crime | An Animated Film

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

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

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

    Trailers mostly, if I’m being honest.

    But also free films:

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

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

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

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

    Sociology Podcasts: Theory for 10@10

    Friday, March 5th, 2021
    PowerPoint Activity

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

    Podcasts…

    Using Analogies: How Inequalities Create Inequality

    Sunday, February 28th, 2021

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

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

    Preamble…

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Setting the Scene…

    Would You Rather?

    Sunday, February 21st, 2021

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

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

    How To Play

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

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

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

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

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

    1. Which answer they want to choose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    They have to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And Finally…

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

    Or video monitor come to that.

    Gender in Education 3 – 19: A Fresh Approach

    Saturday, February 20th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

    Or not as the case may be.

    Groundhog Day and the Psychology of Happiness

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

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

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

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

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

    So we did.

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

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

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

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

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

     And this is where Groundhog Day comes in.

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

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

    Or something.

    Sociological Insights: A Curated Collection of ASA Videos

    Thursday, February 18th, 2021

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

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

    Sociological Insights…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And all in under 3 minutes.

    The Impact of Social Media

    Monday, February 15th, 2021
    Student Pack…

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

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

    UK OCR Resources

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

    PowerPoint Presentation…

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

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

    HKDSE Liberal Studies Resources

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

    HKDSE Resources

    Sociology Texts: Another Big Bundle of Free

    Sunday, February 14th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

    Free the texts…

    How to Slay Your (Exam) Demons

    Friday, February 12th, 2021

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

    Choose wisely, Young Skywalker…

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

    Or maybe not.

    You pays your money…

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

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

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

    a. Exams?

    b. Demon Fighting?

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

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

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

    Which is nice.

    Unless you choose demon fighting.

    Then probably not so much.

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

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

    Either way, the choice is yours

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Unless I’ve read too much into it.

    In which case.

    Good Luck.

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