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Archive for May, 2017

Plus, Minus, Interesting: A Thinking Hats Tool

Monday, May 29th, 2017

If you’ve been following recent posts featuring the work of Dr. Jill Swale you’ll have come across her “Thinking Hats” activity  that’s partly designed to structure classroom discussions.

If you want an activity that eases your students gently into the whole “6 Hats” process, “Plus, Minus, Interesting“ is a simple evaluation exercise that uses the Yellow (advantages), Black (disadvantages) and Green (creativity) hats to evaluate a specific question or situation.

In the supplied example there are a range of Crime and Deviance “What If?” questions – from “What if drinking alcohol become illegal in Britain” to “What if there was Saturday prison for children not working hard enough at school?”.

If you want to use your own questions I’ve added a document with a selection of different types of evaluation table,  although each is based around the “Plus, Minus, Interesting” format. There’s also no reason why you couldn’t use a grid drawn on a Whiteboard if you’re doing this as a whole class exercise.

Super Sites for Time-Starved Teachers No.2

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

Free AQA Sociology Course Handbook

Creating a Course Handbook for your students has probably never been easier: the software’s freely available (in some cases, literally so), there’s an almost unlimited store of graphics on the web to illustrate your creation and it can all be neatly packaged in a range of handy formats – from pdf files to online flipbooks. The only “problem” is the time it takes to produce…

One way around this is to use an off-the-shelf Handbook, such as this excellent example produced by Kim Constable (the Hecticteacher – her website is well worth a visit even if you’re not in the market for a Course Handbook). This contains a range of information students will find useful – from an overview of course content, through information about course resources, to a variety of study tips and tricks.

While most of the content applies to everyone following the AQA Specification there may be bits – such as the textbooks particular teachers like to use (not everyone uses Webb et. al.  for example) you’d like to change – and this is where the editable version of the file comes into play.

Drop Kim an email via her Contact page and she’ll let you have a version of the Handbook you can customise to your heart’s content.

Super Sites for Time-Starved Teachers No.1

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

I seem to bookmark a lot of sites, for some reason, and every so often when I’m a bit bored, I like to review what I’ve saved, try to understand why I saved it and cull the contents of my favourites folder. It’s a safer alternative to tinkering with my computer settings and doesn’t result in my computer going belly-up, having to spend hours getting it back to a semblance of normality and swearing. A lot.

Anyway.

Another benefit of clearing out the bookmarks is that I get to look at the sites I’ve saved and, very occasionally, find one I think might be useful. So, by way of a preamble:
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Using “Thinking Hats” to Structure Discussions

Friday, May 26th, 2017

I’ve always thought Edward De Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats” (1985) is an idea that fits quite neatly with the demands placed on students in a-level sociology and psychology. Three hats speak directly to the assessment process:

1.White: facts, information known or needed.

2. Black: weaknesses, limitations and judgements.

3. Yellow: advantages and uses.

The remaining hats also have a part to play in developing the general skills required of students at this level:

4. Green: creativity, exploring new ideas and possibilities

5. Red: feelings and intuitions

6. Blue: control of the thinking process

However, while it’s relatively easy to identity such things the problem is always one of how to successfully apply them in particular classrooms.

As luck – or more-correctly the ATSS archive I’m currently wantonly mining – would have it, the fourth example from the guilded pen of Dr. Jill Swale is an activity designed specifically to use De Bono’s 6 thinking hats in sociological discussion (although it could equally be applied to psychological discussions with a bit of tinkering).

The activity itself is pretty simple – divide the class into groups and ask them to discuss a question or topic – but the thinking hats approach provides a strong structure that encourages students to be both productive and engaged at all points in the process.

Which strikes me as a Win-Win scenario all-round.

Education and the New Right: The 3 “C’s”

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Working backwards in the alphabet, as you do, the second element to Boyd’s (1991) characterization of new Right approaches to education (the first is here if you missed it) focuses on the “3 C’s”: Character, Content and Choice.

1. Character refers to the notion of moral character and, more-importantly from a New Right perspective, how to encourage and develop it through the education system. In this respect the socialisation function of education means schools have an important role to play in both producing new consumers and workers and also ensuring children have the “right attitudes” for these roles. Part of this process involves (in a similar sort of argument to that used by Functionalists’) instilling respect for legitimate authority and the development of future business leaders.

More recently, a refinement on the notion of moral character has focused on what Duckworth et.al. (2007) have called grit, something they define as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals”.

The idea here is that the combination of passion for educational goals coupled with the desire to achieve them is a key indicator of educational achievement – one they claim is a more-important predictor of “future success” (an idea you might like to subject to critical evaluation) than any other notable variable).

This claim does, of course, open up a range of critical possibilities for students – from Crede et.al.’s (2016) conclusion that “the higher-order structure of grit is not confirmed, that grit is only moderately correlated with performance and retention, and that grit is very strongly correlated with conscientiousness” to why it should be an attractive idea to New Right approaches.

2. Core Content: The emphasis here is the establishment of a curriculum designed to meet the needs of the economy, an idea that links neatly into discussion of the role and purpose of the education system. From this perspective the main objective for schools is to adequately prepare children for their working adult lives in ways that benefit the overall economy. This generally involves the idea that there should be a mix of academic and vocational courses and qualifications open to students; in the past this has meant the New Right championing Grammar schools (an idea currently (2017) being revived in New Right political circles) that provided an academic type of education for a relatively small elite (around 20%) of children and Secondary Modern / Technical schools that provided a vocational type of education.

Currently the vogue is to provide different types of academic / vocational qualifications (such as “ordinary” GCSEs and “vocational” GCSEs) within the same school. For the majority of students the curriculum emphasis should be on some variety of training with the objective being to ensure schools produce students with the skills businesses need (“Key Skills”, for example, such as Maths, English and ICT).

The New Right is, as might be expected, keen on “traditional subjects” (English, Maths and History) and antagonistic to subjects like Media and Film Studies – and, of course, Sociology.

3. Choice of school: Parents should be free to choose the school they want their children to attend – whether this be State maintained or private. The basic model here is a business one: just like with any business, those that offer the customer good value will thrive and those that offer poor value will close – or in the current case, “underperforming schools” are forcibly converted into Academy Schools run by a variety of Trusts. When parents exercise choice “good” schools will expand to accommodate all those who want a place and “bad” schools will close as their numbers decline.

Maths in Psychology

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Three more documents, authored by Dr. Julia Russell and salvaged by yours-truly from the Uniview archive, these focus on the Maths in Psychology component recently introduced into the a-level the Psychology Specification.

The basic format for each document is a brief outline of a specific study followed by exam-style questions and answers to these questions. The final component is a suggested extension activity.

  1. The Apple Logo: Blake et.al (2015)
  2. Dreaming of failing works!: Arnulf et.al. (2014)
  3. Learning Not to be Prejudiced: Lebrecht et.al. (2009)


If you prefer your pictures moving, we’ve produced a range of introductory films, written and narrated by Deb Gajic, that take students step-by-step through a number of different statistical tests:

Sign Test 

Spearman’s Rho 

Mann-Whitney

Chi Square

Wilcoxen

Probability

The films are also available as a:

Big Value 6 film bundle for 48-hour rental:

DVD 

Education and the New Right: The 5 “D’s”

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

If you want a simple, straightforward and memorable (possibly) way to sum-up New Right approaches to education, you could do worse than adopt Boyd’s (1991) characterisation of the “5 Ds” of the New Right perception of the role of education and training in contemporary English / Western societies:

1. Disestablishment: The school system should be decoupled from State control; private businesses should be encouraged to own and run schools, just as private companies run supermarkets or accountancy firms. The government doesn’t, for example, tell Tesco how to organise and run its shops so the New Right see little reason for governments playing such a role in education.

2. Deregulation: Within certain broad limits private owners should be free to offer the kind of educational facilities and choices they believe parents want; schools should be “freed” from Local Authority / government control.

3. Decentralisation: Control over the day-to-day decision-making within a school should fall on the shoulders of those best-placed to make decisions in the interests of their clients – something that involves giving power to those closest to individual schools (governors and headteachers) rather than decision-making being in the hands of those who are remote from the specific needs of such schools (governments, politicians and the like).

Power, in this respect, is seen to be most efficiently exercised by those furthest away (school leaders) from the centre of government power (because they know and understand particular local conditions and circumstances and can respond quickly to change in a way government bureaucracies cannot).

4. Diminution: Once each of the above ideas are operating the State has a much-reduced role to play in education and hence national education spending should fall (to be replaced by a variety of localized initiatives – including private, fee-paying, education, local forms of taxation and so forth). This idea dovetails with the idea of “consumer choice” in education and general New Right thinking about the size and role of the State; if education takes a smaller part of the national tax budget people pay less tax and are free to spend that money on the education of their choice.

5. De-emphasis: With each of the above in place the power of government is diminished (or de-emphasised) with the power to make educational decisions focused at the local level of individual schools.

Crime and Gender: Critical Thinking and Essay Writing

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

A third example of Jill Swale’s work, once more culled from the ATSS archive lurking in my expansive filing cabinet, is an essay-writing exercise constructed around the question:

“Assess the view that the women’s crime rate, according to official statistics, is lower than men’s because of differential enforcement of the low.”

The activity has three main objectives:

  • To examine some important studies attempting to explain gender differences in crime rates.
  • To encourage critical thinking about the methods sociologists use, and whether data can always be taken at face value.
  • To help select material for a logically planned and balanced essay.

  • The exercise combines small group and individual work as students are required to examine ways to structure and answer the question.

    Although the resource materials provided are fairly comprehensive they’re now quite a few years old and probably need to be updated with some new material.

    You will need to check the suggested web links are still working and you may need to substitute some of your own.

    Exploring the Nurture in Our Nature?

    Friday, May 19th, 2017

    The Nature-Nurture debate in both sociology and psychology at a-level has, historically, generally been framed in terms of an either / or approach to understanding the relationship between genes and social / environmental influences. In short, either our behaviour is fundamentally a product of our genetic inheritance (biological determinism) or it is a product of our cultural experiences (cultural determinism).

    Recent developments in neuroscience – and, in particular, the ability to see, understand and interpret MRI scan data – have, however, cast doubt on the utility of seeing human behaviour in terms of this relatively simple biology-culture dichotomy.

    More specifically, the work of researchers like James Fallon and Kent Kiehl in relation to psychopathy and Randy Jirtle in the field of epigenetics (“above genetics”) has suggested that even though very clear genetic differences exist between the brain structures of “psychopath” and “non-psychopath” the frequently-destructive behaviour of the former can’t simply be explained in terms of simple genetic predispositions: even in what seems one of the most clear-cut examples of genetic predispositions, cultural factors play a clear – and possibly crucial – role in the social development of psychopaths.

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    NotAFactsheet: More Deviance

    Thursday, May 18th, 2017

    Three new NotAFactsheets to add to your growing collection covering:

    1. Interactionism (labelling theory, personal and social identities, master labels)
    2. Deviancy Amplification (an outline of the model plus the role of the media)
    3. Critical Theory (Instrumental and Hegemonic Marxism, Critical Subcultures)

    Each NotaFactsheet is available in two flavours: with and without short (1 or 2 minute) embedded video clips:

    D4. Interactionism | Interactionism with short video clip 

    D5. Deviancy Amplification | Deviancy Amplification with short video clip 

    D6. Critical Theory | Critical Theory with short video clip

    Using Analogies in Sociology

    Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

    Although analogies aren’t always widely used in sociology teaching – with the exception of the organismic analogy conventionally used to introduce Functionalism and the “Warm Bath” analogy used in relation to Functionalist views on Family Life – I’ve always felt that, used carefully and with suitable warnings not to stretch them too far, they can help students grasp the salient points underlying some complex ideas. Analogies can, for example:

  • help students grasp how different perspectives “see society
  • give a greater insight into how concepts like cultural capital  and how it can be demonstrated.
  • instill a greater sense of awareness and understanding, as in the case of this class structure / social mobility analogy.

  • Keeping the above in mind, therefore, this third example of Jill Swale’s work in relation to applying critical thinking skills to a-level sociology involves a slight change from the previous examples in that it ranges across the whole course and focuses on the use of analogies in sociology in a way designed to:

  • develop the use of analogies to aid student understanding and application.
  • evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different analogies.

  • The Analogies in Sociology document has full instructions about how to use it in the classroom although, as always, there’s plenty of space left to adapt the exercise to your own particular classroom needs.

    Why is Gaz in Court for Mugging?

    Monday, May 15th, 2017

    A second example of Jill Swale’s work, lovingly-culled from the ATSS archive, is based around the requirement for students to “solve a mystery by selecting and ordering relevant material through group discussion”.

    In terms of game mechanics, this is a relatively simple sift-sort-match exercise: students work in small groups to link case study material to different sociological approaches to understanding and explaining crime and deviance.

    Once completed the relationships between the evidence and theory can be opened-up for class discussion and there is further scope to set extension work, such as an essay, on the basis of the work done in the classroom. 

    The exercise is designed to encourage students to interpret data and apply theories to a specific instance and while the supplied materials cover a variety of situations and theories, you can easily add or subtract material of your own – such as different forms of evidence and newer theories – by using a word processor to create new cards. This facility means you can tailor the level of work to the requirements of both the whole class and specific students within the class if necessary (by using a group-work format teachers can, if necessary, spend more of their time with students who need a bit more focused help).

    If you find this type of exercise works well for you and your students you should be able to use it as a template to create and explore other scenarios across different Units / Modules – basically any area of the course that requires students to link evidence to theories.

    Global Crime Lesson Resource

    Sunday, May 14th, 2017

    If you’re not familiar with the work of Dr. Jill Swale the easiest way to describe it is that she brings a creative dimension to sociology teaching and learning through the application of critical thinking. This fusion has, over the years, produced some very interesting and innovative ways to teach a-level sociology, particularly the sociology of crime and deviance.

    As luck would have it I’ve come across some of the stuff Jill produced for the ATSS journal Social Science Teacher (and yes, it was in the filing cabinet, in case you were wondering). Once I’ve discovered a way of turning the scanner up to 11, I should be able to crank some of it out for your greater delectation. And teaching.

    Anyway, the first example is a resource that provides a series of ways to explore and investigate different types of crime – state, green, corporate, etc. – related to globalisation.

    The stimulus material was created around 2007 with a stated rationale of “updating the teaching of crime and deviance by incorporating examples from recent news”, so if you decide to use the resource you’ll need to add some more up-to-date material to the stuff supplied. Having said this, the supplied materials have both historical and contemporary relevance and probably just require a little tweaking rather than a radical reappraisal.

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    ATSS: Critical views of the family

    Saturday, May 13th, 2017

    The filing cabinet that just keeps on giving has revealed another of its little secrets in the form of an ATSS Teaching and Learning Support Pack on Critical Approaches to the Family (stuff like Radical Psychiatry, Marxism and Feminism).

    This pack takes the same format as previous packs on globalisation, deviance and research methods: general background material about the approaches combined with a number of activities and exercises designed to help students apply their understanding of the material.

    Testing Times

    Friday, May 12th, 2017

    Testing Times is a relatively-simple board game, adapted from an original idea by Sally Stewart, designed to help students revise.

    The game is played in small classroom groups in the presence of a teacher because teachers will need to adjudicate student answers in order to sort the right from the wrong. Probably. 

    Although the original game (“Cops and Robbers”) was based around Crime and Deviance (the clue’s in the name) there’s no reason why it can’t be adapted to other areas of your Specification.

    The game is simple to play and set-up. All you need is a couple of dice and a squared board – either one copied from the Testing Times document or one you create yourself (in something like Word). If you were running this as a whole-class game you could simply draw the squared game grid on a whiteboard.

    To prepare a game board you’ll need to decide on a set of categories (in sociology, for example, this might be something like different perspectives) and 5 or 6 broad questions relating to the categories. If this is unclear have a look at the example boards included in the document.