The Blog, now in its 10th year, features resources for teachers and students of Sociology, Psychology and Criminology and contains a mix of Revision Resources, Notes, Lesson Plans, PowerPoint Presentations, Films, Digested Research and more.

Search the nearly 1000 posts if you’re looking for something specific, browse the different Categories for more-general exploration, or simply read the latest posts on the Home Page (and follow the Related Research suggestions at the end of each Post to discover similar Posts).

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A Whole Bundle of Risk

I think it’s fair to say Beck’s concepts of Risk and Risk Society aren’t well-covered at A-level, partly because his ideas are difficult to get across to students and partly because, not to put too fine a point on things, they’re not easy to understand and encapsulate in a few pithy points.

Be that as it may, the basic idea of Risk Society is an important one in the context of a lot of sociological development because it gives students to opportunity to challenge the (over-) easy distinction that’s often made in textbooks and exams between modernity and postmodernity. Risk Society is very much a concept that rejects postmodernity (despite what you may have been lead to believe in some quarters…) in favour of understanding how “the modernist project” has evolved in what Beck – in common with theorists like Giddens – considers to be Late Modernity.

This post brings together the disparate resources, both text and film, we’ve posted over the past few years into one handy Bundle that’s ideal for teachers looking to update and expand their knowledge and understanding of Risk and for students wanting to get some sort of handle on the topic.

While it’s conventional at this point to say something like “Enjoy!”, if you’ve got even a passing acquaintance with the subject matter you’ll know how ridiculous that would sound.

Endure!” would probably be entirely more-appropriate, but I’ve done my best to make the whole thing as understandable as is humanly possible. Whether or not I’ve succeeded, I’ll leave you to be the judge.


Research Methods: Consuming Passions?

Some time ago I was asked by a publisher (who shall remain nameless because I’ve mercifully forgotten their actual name) to run an introductory computing course for sociology teachers. I initially agreed because it was a topic that interested me and the money they were paying was okay. Always the most important consideration. Or so I thought.

It wasn’t until I’d started to discuss what I’d planned with them that they casually let slip that “there wouldn’t be any computers available for anyone to use on the day”. At which point I made my excuses etc. Even I drew the line at trying to teach a computing course sans computers.

And yet, when it comes to research methods that’s precisely what many teachers do: teach methods sans research.

Which isn’t a criticism because it’s not really a choice, mainly because trying to give students hands-on experience of the methods they’re studying invariably takes up too much time for too little payback. Teaching students about problems of reliability with different methods may not be very interesting, exciting or illuminating, but it takes a fraction of the time compared to students experiencing some or all of these problems for themselves.

While in an ideal teaching world (something that definitely doesn’t include English education in the 21st century) teachers and students would have the time and space to explore both the practical and theoretical dimensions of research methods. But even though this world’s not ideal and you don’t, doesn’t mean you can’t. You just have to use a little bit of initiative. Or deceptiveness, if we’re being really honest.


Dual Coding: The Film


Retrieval Practice: The Film

In this series of films we take a new and dynamic approach to selling the advantages of study skills to students. This film, the 4th in the series, provides an insight into retrieval practice and how to use it effectively.

Research has shown that we spend most of our free study time re-reading, underlining and highlighting our books and notes. But a problem with passively going over what’s familiar to us is that it can create an illusion of memory, called recognition: a belief that we know something when it’s staring us in the face, but which we can’t recall when it’s no-longer there.

As it won’t be in an exam.


Approaches to Health and Illness: Biomedical and Social

Quite by chance, the other day I came across a very useful diagrammatic representation of the debate between biomedical and social approaches to health and illness. Probably when I was looking for something else. You know how it is.

The diagram is based on the American County Health Rankings National Findings Report created by The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and while it has obvious applications to American health care, its basic conclusion holds broadly true for both the UK and Western Europe: of the factors contributing to health care, a relatively consistent 80% are social in some shape or form, with the remaining 20% the result of biomedical clinical care.

And if you want to explore the issue in a bit more detail, I’ve added some general notes on the biomedical and social approaches to health. I’m nice like that.

For that dwindling band among you who study the Sociology of Health, one of the key debates is the different approaches to understanding health encapsulated by two opposing models: the biomedical and the social.

Most of us will already be familiar with the former approach, the dominant medical discourse in Britian and America for 200 years or more. It focuses on the clinical care and treatment of illness with the doctor-patient relationship being central to the model. It is sometimes characterised as a “curative” model of illness in the sense that it focuses resources on curing patients through a variety of medical interventions.

The social model, on the other hand, is an oppositional discourse on the nature of health and illness. It challenges biomedical assumptions concerning both the way to promote health (and well-being) and the doctor–patient relationship. It is, in this respect, sometimes seen as a “preventative” model in the sense that the causes of health and illness are seen to be located in wider social processes – such as  clean air and water.

While this debate may seem fairly academic, it actually has a range of important real world consequences, not the least being the funding of health care and treatment in countries like Britian with it’s socialised medical system and the United States with its privatised insurance system.

If you want to expand your understanding of the biomedical and social models I’ve written some basic notes that allow you to do just that..

Click for notes on biomedical and social models

Review: Equity in Education

In their new book Equity in Education Professor Lee Elliot Major and Emily Briant offer a practical guide for teachers looking to play their part in levelling the playing field of learning.

Jack Elliot-Major

When I used to teach about equality of opportunity in education I’d start things off by choosing the smallest student in the class (I’m over 6’ tall) and telling them we both had an equal opportunity to achieve by touching the ceiling. A fact I mention because although I was offering the student equality, I was deliberately denying them equity (at least until I offered them a chair to stand on. But that’s a whole other discussion).

And this, in a nutshell, is the argument put-forward by Lee Elliot Major and Emily Briant in their new book Equity in Education. A short (159 pages) but very accessible book that describes itself as “a practical guide for teachers” interested in “Levelling the playing field of learning”. It is, of course, a bit more complicated than teaching students harsh-but-fair lessons in inequality.

The book is divided into 4 sections, the first of which sets the scene by going over the well-trodden ground of post-war educational inequality: the myth of meritocracy, the persistence of the belief in education as a motor of social mobility, despite all evidence to the contrary and a seemingly ever-increasing “educational arms race”, the cruder manifestations of which occur at the level of private tutoring and exclusive schooling and whose wider ramifications play-out in the notion of elite universities and degrees…

This will, of course, be very familiar to sociology teachers, as will short chapters on Bourdieu and cultural capital – a concept that has both contemporary resonance and one that highlights how even radical ideas and processes can become twisted to support the educational status quo in contemporary Britian. Although Ofsted have chosen to highlight the importance of cultural capital, their adopted definition (“the essential knowledge that pupils need to be educated citizens, introducing them to the best that has been thought and said and helping to engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement.”) contorts the concept to fit a much more-persistent theme in post-war British (and, to be fair, American) schooling: compensatory education. The vampire belief that if schools could just be made to “compensate” working class kids for their “deficient” culture, everything would be (educationally) hunky dory.

As familiar as these ideas may be, it’s no bad thing to introduce them to teachers who’ve never studied sociology by asking them to recognise and confront their own beliefs and assumptions about both the world, the role of the education system and their place, as teachers, within this system. This sets-up the main arguments in the book, beginning with the idea that “a realistic and ambitious role for schools is to act as engines of equity rather than social mobility machines”.

The implication here is that while “This means acknowledging the range of material and cultural barriers to learning faced by pupils inside and outside of school” teachers can and should make a difference by “prioritising support for pupils that they can most help”.

If you’re into that sort of thing this section, as with all the others, lists a small number of “Headline Takeaways” that provide a relatively simple summary of its key ideas before we get to the meat of the matter.


The Sociological Detectives: Creating Curiosity

As you may have noticed if you’ve looked at our latest Psychology releases, we’ve recently turned our collective attention towards the topic of metacognition which, in basic terms, involves understanding how and why students learn.

Or, equally-importantly, why they fail to learn.

Either way, the first batch of films in what promises to be a long-running series that you probably won’t be bothered to explore include topics as diverse as The Power of Habits, the relationship between Sleep and Memory and how to take more-effective and memorable notes using the Cornell Method.

For the second issue we’ve dabbled in the related areas of Retrieval Practice and Dual Coding although not, you’ll be massively relieved to learn (I’m guessing here) in the same film.

Next up we’ve decided to look at the role played by curiosity in the learning process and one of the things research has shown about curiosity, apart from its widely-reported role in the killing of cats, is that the more curious we are about something, the more involved we become in trying to understand it. And it’s not just that we become more-interested in whatever we’re studying. Curiosity makes it easier to learn, so it actually makes us better at learning it. Not just in the short term but over a much longer period too.

It does this, according to Gruber et al (2014) by creating increased activity in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that plays a central role in forming and retrieving memories (think of it as a kind of all-purpose memory manager). In addition, it creates increased activity in the areas of the brain associated with rewards.

Both of these increases are associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine. This not only facilitates memory retrieval in the hippocampus, it’s also associated with things like pleasure, reward and motivation. So not only does curiosity stimulate our memory, it makes us feel good while it’s doing it.

Which is a bonus.

Even better is the fact it’s possible to create curiosity in a couple of ways:


GCSE Sociology Revision Booklets

From time-to-time I come across GCSE Sociology resources that I think are worth passing-on to teachers and students and these two documents are no exception.

Because if they were I wouldn’t be linking to them. Obviously.

The first is a Revision Pack created by C Pym of Whalley Range High School. It covers the 2022 exam series so you’ll need to ignore the couple of pages covering “Advanced Information” that was issued for those COVID-affected exams.

I could have removed the pages but was too lazy to bother thought I’d leave them be as my small contribution to the historical record.

The Pack covers Family, Education, Crime and Deviance and Social Stratification plus a little bit of Research Methods (a Knowledge Organiser and Glossary), with each topic given its own:

  • Glossary
  • Key Studies
  • Practice Questions
GCSE Research Methods

The Pack is completed by a selection of sentence starters and model answers and a Mark Scheme for the 12-mark question.

To complement the Revision Pack I’ve added a Research Methods Booklet created by Simon Lewis of The Polesworth School. This consists of general information and short, simple, exercises covering:

  • Types of data and Methods
  • Reliability, Validity and Representativeness
  • Advantages and Disadvantages of different methods
  • The Research Process
  • Types of sampling
  • Choosing a Research Method
  • Practical, Ethical and Theoretical Factors.


Out of interest I ran this post through the WordPress AI Assistent to see if it found any errors or inconsistencies. This is what the little chap had to say:

“The post content provides helpful GCSE Sociology resources in the form of a Revision Pack and a Research Methods Booklet. The Revision Pack covers Family, Education, Crime and Deviance, Social Stratification, and Research Methods. It includes glossaries, key studies, practice questions, sentence starters and model answers, and a Mark Scheme. The Research Methods Booklet provides general information and exercises on various topics related to research methods. Both resources can be valuable for teachers and students studying GCSE Sociology.”

No specific improvements are needed for this content. It effectively introduces the resources, provides relevant details about their contents, and includes links to access them. Well done!

For some weird reason I feel quite proud…

50 Psychology Classics

Encouraging students to explore the rich history of psychological studies can sometimes seem a bit like being caught between a rock and a (very) hard place:

On the one hand there’s the bare-bones overviews of classic studies that appear in many textbooks, where space is at a premium and the price of pictures is a level of understanding that is, at best, partial and, at worst, potentially misleading.

On the other there’s the sink-or-swim approach of giving them the original research to read. Most, at a guess, probably sink.

One way to give your students a more in-depth view of classic studies without the turn-off of wading through complex arguments is through the approach adopted by this text: take 50 classic studies and provide a short commentary for each.

And that’s exactly what you get with this volume of 50 Psychology Classics by Tom Butler-Bowden, arranged alphabetically from Adler to Thayer.

And if you’re looking for further “classic study” stuff there’s a couple of previous posts – Psychology Classic Studies Resources and 40 Studies That Changed Psychology – you might find useful.

Creative Commentaries: What Were You Thinking?

Sample Word Template

The basic idea here is to understand what your students were thinking when they complete a piece of work, something that can be useful for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, it can help teachers identify strengths and weaknesses in their students understanding of how they need to construct something like an extended piece of work.

Secondly, and more-specifically, it can help to identify how students understand – or not as the case may be – what they have to do to meet particular assessment objectives.

Although the exercise was originally designed for use with extended pieces of work, such as essays, there’s probably no-reason why you couldn’t use it in the context of practice exam questions of varying length and complexity.

If you find it useful as a tool for understanding your students’ thought processes it might also be helepful to combine it with something like Colour-Coded Assessments.

The Process

The basic idea here is that once a student has completed a piece of work, such as an essay, they then need to go back and write a short commentary outlining their thoughts about why they wrote what they did for each paragraph in their answer. This can be as detailed as they like, although it’s perhaps best to try to encourage them not to write a second essay.

You can give your students hints and pointers to the kinds of things you’re looking for in the Commentary – what assessment objectives they think they’ve used, how successfully did they cover particular points and the like – but it’s probably better if you leave them to their own devices rather than get them to complete a checklist of ideas.

The Commentaries your students provide should give you interesting indications of where they’re going right and wrong in the construction of different types of (exam) answer.


You don’t need to create any specific materials for this exercise, but if you want to give them a bit of initial guidance you could ask them to use this simple Word Template (or create something similar of their own).

British Social Attitudes: Domestic Work

Every year the British Social Attitudes survey asks a representative sample of the population what it’s like to live in Britain” and this year there are a few areas surveyed that might be of particular interest to A-level teachers and students.

The first of these is Gender Roles, a chapter divided into 4 main subsections covering:

As you’ll hopefully not be too surprised to learn, the latter is the main focus of this particular post, partly because the domestic labour debate is an integral part of the Families and Households curriculum and partly because it gives a lead into a dimension of the debate that’s probably unfamiliar to most contemporary students – about which, more in a moment.

If you want to read the Domestic Labour section just use the link above to download it. It’s only 7 pages long but for those who are time and attention poor I’ve also included a summary of the key points to save you having to trawl through 50-odd pages.

In addition, you might find this recent BBC Report on the survey useful – and if you’re in a comparative frame of mind it might be worth looking at the Scandinavian experience by way of contrast.


Colour-Coded Assessment

Understanding Assessment Objectives, as every teacher knows, is a crucial component of exam success.

And a great deal of time and effort is expended inside and outside classrooms up and down the land learning and applying various mnemonics designed to help students structure their answers in ways that cover the required exam AO’s.


While a popular mnemonic like PEEL (Point, Example, Explanation, Link) encourage students to structure extended answers in a way that at least covers the Assessment Objectives, it’s use generally assumes students always understand how and why they’re using it.

And if they’re not clear about what common Assessment Objectives like Knowledge, Understanding, Application, Analysis and Evaluation actually mean in practice, this creates problems. If you’re asking students to apply ideas they don’t necessarily fully understand, all the scaffolding in the world’s not going to make much difference.

This is where a simple colour-coding technique comes into play: to complement your favourite teaching mnemonic in a way that allows you to quickly and efficiently identify whether your students understand what each Assessment Objective actually means when using it in exam-type answers.

As an added bonus this technique also enables you to immediately see which Objectives are being over-and-under used by individual students in their answers – an important, if often  overlooked, consideration in understanding how exam answers are marked.


Start the process by giving your students an exam question that involves some sort of extended writing. This will vary depending on the exam board you use and how you want to build your students up to answering the highest mark questions.

While you could start with a single-paragraph answer, the colour-coding technique works best as a diagnostic tool when you ask your students to write an answer that’s a few paragraphs long. Again, what constitutes “a few” is for you to decide but it shouldn’t be too difficult to assess the level at which your students are currently working and adjust things accordingly.

For the sake of illustration, therefore, let’s assume your students have to write a 4 or 5 paragraph answer that assesses them in terms of three common exam Objectives:

  • Knowledge and Understanding
  • Application
  • Analysis and Evaluation.

Once they’ve answered the question – and before submitting it for marking – get them to highlight every instance of:

  • Knowledge and Understanding in blue.
  • Application in green.
  • Analysis and Evaluation in yellow.

As you mark each student’s work you’ll have an immediate visual representation of what each understands by these terms – and whether or not their understanding is correct.

Colour-coding can, in this respect, be a useful diagnostic tool because it will clearly identify things like students misunderstanding the Assessment Objectives or focusing too much on one Objective to the exclusion of others.

By way of variation you can break-down the AO’s even further (such as Analysis in red and Evaluation in yellow) if you think that will help.

In addition you can get your students to do the colour-coding after you’ve marked and returned their work as a separate exercise.

Collections 4 | Introductory Sociology

At the start of a New Academic Year I thought it might be useful to bring together all the Introductory Sociology stuff I’ve created and posted over the past 10 years.

As you’ll understand if you have a look at the range of resources I’ve interpreted “Introductory” fairly widely – from pretty basic stuff around What Is Sociology? to a variety of different materials covering socialisation, culture and identity at different levels and a few bits-and-bobs around sociological perspectives.

If you’ve followed the Blog for any length of time you’ll probably be aware it’s a serendipitous mix of resources aimed at both teachers (such as lesson ideas) and students (mainly Notes, although there are a few other resources you might like to check out) and this Collection is no different.

So be aware that while there’s probably something here you’re going to find life changing vaguely useful, you may have to sift through stuff that’s not just to find it.

The Collection

Teaching Sociological Perspectives | 2: Into the Multiverse

As you’ll know if you’re up on your Marvel films (or have a passing interest in Ancient Greek philosophy) the concept of a multiverse is the idea that multiple universes exist in parallel with one another, side-by-side as it were, a bit like a 3-dimensional patchwork quilt.

Whether you see this idea as an exciting scientific hypothesis (albeit one that you can’t actually test or, indeed, falsify), an interesting philosophical question or a desperate attempt by massive media conglomerates to retcon the fact that while many of their superheroes clearly exist in the same space and time they all seem blissfully unaware of each other’s existence, is probably only something you can decide.

While the above, with the possible exception of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, raises some interesting sociological questions, of more interest for our current purposes is the fact that:

1. The concept of a multiverse is becoming increasingly well-known, thanks to the pervasive influence of the aforementioned media conglomerates.

2. The concept of separate universes all existing in the same time and space sounds uncannily like the idea of different sociological perspectives – a range of “universes of meaning” that, by-and-large, exist quite independently, more-or-less, of each other.

In other words, if you’re having trouble getting the idea of sociological perspectives across to students you could do worse than use the analogy of “The Multiverse” as a way of helping them get to grips with how and why perspectives as diverse as:

  • Functionalism
  • Conflict Theory
  • Action Theory and
  • Feminism

can all sit alongside each other as different interpretations of the world…

Introduction to Psychology Textbook

I did say there was a lot of text…

This is a free, open-source, psychology textbook similar in scope to the OpenStax Introduction to Psychology text. While the latter is, in my opinion, probably a better option, that’s mainly because the OpenStax text has a more up-to-date feel and isn’t quite so text heavy.

Having said that, if you’re into text-heavy texts this could be a good choice particularly, as I’ve noted, it’s free: so you and your students could happily have a copy each (or even a copy of both) to sit alongside whatever over-priced picture-heavy text you currently use as your main book.

Aside from the massive amount of text etc., this is a specifically Canadian text which uses Canadian spelling (don’t know how important that might be), the content broadly “reflects a Canadian perspective” (whatever that actually means) and the “images reflect Canadian specific content and references”. Which is nice if you’re a big fan of All-Things-Canadian. Or, optionally, you happen to be Canadian.

For everyone else? Maybe not so much?

Although, having said that, the OpenStax text is aimed squarely at a US audience so, as ever when looking at a gift horse in the mouth, you pays your money etc. and mix your metaphors.

One little extra that comes with Introduction to Psychology that might swing things in it’s favour is an accompanying Study Guide containing all kinds of test type questions – True/False, Short-Answer, Fill-in-the-Blank etc.

While the Study Guide contains nothing very sophisticated, it too is free and so not to be sniffed at.


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Archived Posts

A Whole Bundle of Risk

I think it’s fair to say Beck’s concepts of Risk and Risk Society aren’t well-covered at A-level, partly because his ideas are difficult to get

Research Methods: Consuming Passions?

Some time ago I was asked by a publisher (who shall remain nameless because I’ve mercifully forgotten their actual name) to run an introductory computing

Dual Coding: The Film

Dual coding – the 5th film in our Dynamic Learning series – is based on the idea that we process visual and verbal information in

Retrieval Practice: The Film

In this series of films we take a new and dynamic approach to selling the advantages of study skills to students. This film, the 4th

Dynamic Learning: Dual Coding

Dual coding involves using verbal and visual cues to help develop your learning and recall. So if you like two-for-one offers, this one’s for you.

Dynamic Learning: Retrieval Practice

This short film shows you how to use retrieval practice to improve your understanding, develop your recall to identify gaps in your knowledge. While most

Review: Equity in Education

In their new book Equity in Education Professor Lee Elliot Major and Emily Briant offer a practical guide for teachers looking to play their part

GCSE Sociology Revision Booklets

From time-to-time I come across GCSE Sociology resources that I think are worth passing-on to teachers and students and these two documents are no exception.

50 Psychology Classics

Short, student-friendly, discussions of 50 classic psychology studies – from Adler to Thayer.

A useful way to introduce your students to a range of classic psychological studies.

British Social Attitudes: Domestic Work

The latest British Attitudes Survey on Gender Roles (and domestic labour in particular).

This is complemented by a short film (either 30 minutes or the 3 minute extract) on the Wages for Housework movement that developed out of feminist arguments in the early 1970’s.

Colour-Coded Assessment

Colour-coding technique to help students understand exam Assessment Objectives and how to demonstrate them.

Collections 4 | Introductory Sociology

The 4th set of Collections covers Introductory Sociology stuff such as culture, identity, socialisation and perspectives.

Although, when all’s-said-and-done it’s just a handy list of posts overing blog material from the past 10 years it’s quite nice to have it all in one place.

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