Archive for April, 2017

Sweet Sampling: An Edible Lesson.

Friday, April 28th, 2017

Never one not to knowingly flog a dead horse in the face of massive indifference, postmodern irony and mixed metaphors, I thought I’d do a Very Clever post on how you can teach sampling in a way that doesn’t rapidly drain the living essence from everyone in your classroom.

This, to be fair, won’t actually be that many if you somewhat foolishly decided to signpost the fact that “the next class is on sampling” (it’s at times like this you probably regret that pre-term rush of Ofsted Zeal when you created and distributed that year-long scheme of work so your students could understand what they’d be learning and when they’d be learning it – or not, in the case of sampling).

Anyway, I thought I’d take it upon myself to suggest a more-interesting way to teach basic sampling; one that combined my “luv-of-learning”™ with my legendary love of food (or at least tasty sugary morsels that, as luck would have it, look a lot like people. Albeit people from Mars, but what the heck).

It’s a teaching technique that I’ve seen suggested elsewhere (by which I mean Twitter. Probably. It’s usually Twitter) and involves a whole bunch of Jelly Babies (due diligence: other sugary products, such as M&Ms, are available, but they don’t look like little alien babies – despite what their frankly misleading advertising might have naively led everyone to believe) and a lot of self-restraint.

Unfortunately, much as I’d like to claim the credit for devising what follows, the truth is I actually made only two small – but I like to think useful – contributions:


NotAFactsheet: Sampling

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

If there was a competition for the least-loved part of the Sociology Specification it’s a fair bet that sampling would be somewhere off in the far distance, casually looking over its shoulder and taunting its competitors as it limped home in first place.

Loathe it or loathe it, however, you just can’t ignore sampling when it comes to revision – although, of course, that’s not quite true (quick translation: false). You can quite happily, if a little wantonly, ignore it in the probably-misplaced belief that the examiner doesn’t despise you enough to include a question on sampling in the exam. For what it’s worth*, it’s a distinct possibility they do, but don’t be upset by this. It’s nothing personal. Just part of the job description I think. 

So, on the off-chance this little preamble has convinced you it might be a Good Idea to give sampling at least a quick glance, I’ve hand-crafted three NotAFactsheets that are guaranteed to have you singing into the exam**: 


Surveys and Sampling

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

I’m not quite sure why but this blog has developed a bit of a research methods vibe over the past couple of weeks (I say “vibe” because it sounds so much less sinister than “obsession”) and this post continues the theme with a site I chanced across while searching for some sampling-related pictures (I know, it’s just one long fun parade working at shortcutstv.com).

It’s a bit of an oddity because although it’s a maths / statistics site there are a couple of areas on surveys and sampling that should be useful for both sociology and psychology teachers / students. These are illustrated by a mix of text, simple graphics and a couple of bits of optional video.

When all’s-said-and-done, however, it’s basically a pen-and-paper site, so if you don’t want your students sloping off to explore things like “binominals” (which sounded vaguely interesting but turned out not to be) you could easily copy the bits you wanted your students to cover, although it’s probably not worth the effort.

Since it’s a site aimed at American college students the examples it uses are rooted in American culture (school mascots!) and history but there’s nothing here that’s too alien to a British audience (and you can always substitute your own culturally-specific examples if necessary).

The two areas most-useful for sociology / psychology students are probably:


GCSE Psychology Connecting Walls

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

If you’re looking for something a little different to encourage your GCSE students to revise, his collection of Psychology Connecting Walls might be just the ticket.  

The basic mechanics of the quiz are very simple: each wall has 16 elements that can be grouped into 4 different categories. Once all 4 categories have been correctly identified students then need to say what connects each category. If you’re not familiar with the TV Show (Only Connect) on which the quizzes are based you can watch a short introductory video that demonstrates the game mechanics.

There are 19 Connecting Walls in this collection, although because they are randomised some categories will be repeated across different walls. 

There’s no indication as to who created these Walls but if you know, let me know and I can credit them accordingly…


Connecting Walls Collection

Monday, April 24th, 2017

CBSC Sociology has been busy creating and posting a huge number of revision Connecting Walls on Twitter and, in the spirit of “pinching other people’s stuff and sharing it with a wider audience”, I’ve pulled all their tweets together into one handy blog post for your – and your students’ – greater convenience.

So, if you’re looking for a fun way to spice-up classroom revision with a bit of competitive tension, try some or all of the following:


Education Wall 1

Education Wall 2

Education Wall 3

Education Wall 4  

Education Wall 5


Methods in Context: Overt Participant Observation

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

For some reason I thought I’d already blogged this document, but it seems I’d put it on the Sociology Central web site but not here.

To rectify the omission, therefore, this document uses Sudhir Venkatesh’s “Gang Leader For a Day” study as the basis for an outline and evaluation – the advantages and disadvantages – of the following key methodological concepts in overt participant observation:

Recording Data.
Depth and Detail.
Going Native.
Observer Effect.


NotAFactsheet: Interpretivist Methods

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

Continuing the Research Methods theme of recent posts, these NotAFactsheets focus on a range of methods associated with Interpretivist research:

M4a. Research Methods: this outlines different types of interview: semi-structured, unstructured and focus groups.

M4b. Research Methods: observational methods are one of the staples of Interpretivist research and this outlines non-participant observation, covert and overt participant observation.

M4c. Research Methods: while experimental methods are not conventionally associated with Interpretivism there have been a number of very interesting and influential field and natural experiments carried-out over the years. This NotAFactsheet outlines these and also provides an outline of documentary sources (with a bit of content analysis thrown-in for good measure).


Connecting Revision Too

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

If you’ve seen the previous post on Connecting Revision  you may have tried the Family Connecting Wall created by Steve Bishop (and maybe even been inspired to think about creating and sharing your own?).

He’s now created a new Wall to add to your revising pleasure and this time it’s on Crime and Deviance.

As ever the format’s a simple one: find 4 groups of 4 related ideas within the 3 minute time limit and then explain what connects each group.

NotAFactsheet: Research Ethics

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

This NotAFactsheet on Research Ethics is a slight departure from previous NotAFactsheets in that it comes in two flavours:

1. The normal “text with box-outs and pictures-if-you’re-lucky” version.

2.  An experimental version with an added bit of embedded video (click-the-pic-to-play).

Although not ideal, the video is in Flash (.flv) format for reasons that are much too boring to go into. Plus, the .flv format can be quite heavily compressed and means the video doesn’t add too many megabytes to the pdf file. I’ve deliberately kept the clip short – it just illustrates a simple mnemonic that I cut out of one of our films on Ethics – because it’s essentially just a test to see which people prefer.

If you choose this option you’ll need to download the pdf file because atm it won’t play online (probably).

Connecting Revision

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Browsing through my Twitter feed the other day I was struck by a tweet from Oriel Sociology  about a “Connecting Wall” grid featured in the British Sociological Association’s Sociology Teacher magazine.

If you’re familiar with the BBC Quiz show “Only Connect” you’ll know that one of the most popular elements is the “Connecting Wall” where a team of 3 players is presented with a “wall” containing 16 elements that can be grouped into 4 different categories. Once all 4 categories have been correctly identified the team scores extra points by correctly identifying the how each group is connected.

This seemed to me like a really good way of spicing-up revision classes – students seem to like competitive games and the “making connections” angle is particularly suited to some simple “knowledge-based” revision activities.

While the BSA material is fine, the paper-based format is somewhat limiting because it’s difficult for students to know if they’ve correctly identified the four elements of each category (part of the fun of the TV-based connecting wall is that some elements can be red-herrings – they could belong to more than one category). A quick web-search, however, revealed a couple of on-line creators that could be used to make interactive walls quickly and easily.

One such creator (“Connect Fours”) can be found on Russel Tarr’s site.  This has a simple “Create Your Own” function with instructions about how to construct a game wall. To understand how it all works have a look at a Wall created by Steve Bishop on The Family.

Alternatively, the Puzzle Grid site features a Wall creator that takes you through all the simple steps you need to create your own Sociology Revision Wall online.


Sociology Shortcuts: NotAFactsheets

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

Over the past few weeks I’ve published a small selection of Curriculum Press Sociology Factsheets and the response to these set me thinking about creating some of my own, using a similar format – although I’ve decided not to call what I’ve produced “Factsheets”, mainly because they aren’t.

Anyway, I posted my first attempt at a NotAFactsheet a week or so ago and since then I’ve been developing and refining the format in terms of both design and content. Whether or not I’ve managed to capture something useful is something for you to judge but I thought I’d post my first batch of NotAFactsheets anyway.

The basic idea, in case you’re not familiar with the general format, is to use NotAFactsheets in a range of possible ways, as:

  • basic introductory documents.
  • an extra source of student Notes.
  • a source of information when students miss part of a course.
  • a revision document.
    These are all based around “Approaches to Research” and, in the main, focus on an outline of different approaches. I have, however, included one on research methods to see if and how that works (at 5 pages it’s significantly longer than each of the others and I’m not sure if this format works as a NotAFactsheet).

    You can download the following NotAFactsheets:


    Positivist Research Methods




    A Few More Psychology Factsheets

    Thursday, April 6th, 2017

    In a previous post I shared some examples of Curriculum Press Factsheets I’d found on my travels and this post offers a few more examples that might inspire you (and your students) to think about making your own…




    Classical Conditioning

    Eyewitness Testimony

    Factors affecting the accuracy of eyewitness testimony

    Sociology ShortCuts F’sheet

    Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

    I’ve posted a couple of times about the Sociology Factsheets produced by Curriculum Press –  particularly about how it might be an idea for teachers to get their students to make their own versions as both a revision aid and teaching resource for future sociology students – and I thought it might be interesting to have a go at something along these lines myself: particularly because having written a number of books for different exam boards over the past 10 or so years I’ve accumulated a large stock of words that could possibly be put to some more – and probably better – use as a revision-type resource.

    The upshot of playing-around with various words and pictures is my first ShortCuts Sheet on “Approaches to Research: Positivism” (for no better reason than the fact I had some underutilised text lying around that I thought might be easy to adapt to this format).

    If you’ve got any comments, suggestions etc. about why it’s brilliant / shite / could be improved please don’t hesitate to let me know…

    A Few More Sociology Factsheets

    Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

    A previous post featured a selection of the Factsheets produced by The Curriculum Press  and since this post I’ve managed to collect a few more Factsheets from various corners of the Web.

    These, oddly enough, all relate in some way to Research Methods…


    Overt Participant Observation

    Positivism and Interpretivism

    Qualitative Research

    Crime statistics