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Archive for September, 2017

13 | Youth: Part 2

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

The notion of “youth” as a fairly recent (i.e. modernist) phenomenon leads to the question of exactly why this type of life-stage geminates in the transition from pre-modernity to modernity and comes into full-flower in late-modern / postmodern societies? In other words, what Is the role played by youth culture / subcultures in society?

The answer, as you’re probably half-expecting, is one that largely depends on your sociological approach – and the first part of this chapter is given-over to an outline and evaluation of four broad sociological approaches to – and explanations of – youth.

1. Functionalist
2. Marxist
3. Feminist
4. Postmodernist

The final two parts look more-specifically at gender and ethnic relationships, partly as a means of redressing the traditional emphasis on the central role of white males in (spectacular) youth subcultures and partly as a way of examining post-subcultural, post-racial and post-feminist approaches to understanding youth behaviour:

1. Issues relating to gender expands and applies feminist and postmodernist views on youth.
2. Issues relating to ethnicity addresses the ethnocentrism inherent in some approaches to explaining youth behaviours.

Conducting Psychological Research

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

This is a free chapter, from an unpublished textbook by Shelia Kennison of Oklahoma State University, that you can either read online or download as a pdf document.

The chapter covers a range of ideas and issues focused on the research process:

• different research methodologies
• causality
• experimentation
• representative sampling
• reliability and validity
• Type I and Type II errors
• ethics

The text also includes a couple of pages of “key terms” plus a set of questions based on the text designed to assess student understanding.

While it’s not exactly ground-breaking in terms of content and design it seems solid enough for A-level / AP Psychology.

12 | Youth: Part 1

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

It’s probably fair to say the topic of Youth is one of the roads less travelled when it comes to a-level sociology, but I always found it an interesting area to teach / study, particularly because it also links neatly with a couple of the more popular a-level Units in education and deviance.

This initial chapter covers key concepts and the social construction of youth and is largely a definitional one that lays the ground for looking at ideas about youth cultures / subcultures in more detail in later chapters (hard to believe, I know, but there was a certain logic at work here) and it covers:

• The social construction of youth
• The concept of youth culture
• The concept of youth subcultures (both spectacular and mundane…).

The content is aimed specifically at OCR Sociology but there may be bits-and-pieces on areas like education and deviance that apply to other Specifications.

11 | The Research Process: Part 4

Monday, September 25th, 2017

The final part of the Research Methods chapter covers the use of mixed methods in the context of sociological research and is split into three theoretically-discrete, but related, areas:

1. Methodological pluralism involves the idea of combining methodologies, methods and data types to arrive at a more-rounded, reliable and valid insight into social behaviour.

2. Types of Triangulation outlines how researchers can use different types of triangulation – specifically, methodological, researcher and data – as a practical way of improving research reliability and validity.

3. The final section look at a range of Practical. Ethical and Theoretical research considerations and how these relate to both choice of topic and method.

Although the chapter relates directly to the OCR Specification there should still be plenty here for teachers and students following other Specifications.

10 | The Research Process: Part 3

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

In Part 2 of this chapter  we looked at quantitative research – in terms of both primary and secondary data and methods – and Part 3 does something similar for qualitative data and research.

It’s also structured in the same way as the previous chapter which, if nothing else, at least shows I thought a little bit about presentational continuity. Be that as it may, the chapter is divided into three discrete, but related, parts.

The first part deals with examples of primary qualitative research methods (semi-structured (‘focused’) interviews, unstructured interviews and focus groups). Each method is outlined, exampled and evaluated in terms of their strengths and weaknesses.

The second part does the same for secondary quantitative methods (Non-participant observation, Overt and Covert participant observation and documentary sources).

The third part looks at the methodology behind the methods through, initially, an overview of Interpretivism and, subsequently, an outline of Interpretivist research design that links this part to the overall theme of the research methods chapter.

Some printer’s marks are visible on the pages and I think the publisher just stopped pretending with both pictures and captions.

Culture and Identity: Caught Between Two Worlds?

Monday, September 18th, 2017

Richard Driscoll teaches A-level Sociology at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China and you may recall an interesting piece of research – The Last Queendom of Women?  – carried-out by one of his students, Hecate Li, that provided a contemporary example of an alternative to the “conventional nuclear family”.

In this latest piece of research by one of his students, Sarah G. Zhang applies two complimentary research methods, questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, to examine the question “How do experiences in different countries affect the social identities of American-born-Chinese (ABC) students” – a piece of research UK teachers and students should find useful for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, it covers the respective strengths and weaknesses of two different research methods and shows how they can be applied to a substantive research area. The use of quantitative and qualitative methods / data is also a useful example of research triangulation.

Secondly, the research gives a fascinating insight into questions of culture and identity by choosing to look at “precarious identities” – young people “caught between two very different worlds” – expressed through a wide range of cultural concepts: language, family values and relationships, work ethics, identity and social relationships.

If you want to contact Richard Driscoll about this research you can do so through Twitter.

9 | The Research Process: Part 2

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

The focus here is quantitative data and research, with the free chapter split into three discrete, but necessarily related, parts.

The first part outlines a selection of primary quantitative research methods (questionnaires, structured interviews and content analysis) and evaluates their strengths and weaknesses.

The second part does something similar for secondary quantitative methods (official and non-official statistics).

The final part turns the focus onto quantitative research methodology with an overview and analysis of positivist approaches. In addition to identifying and explaining some of the main features of this approach the link with research design in the first chapter is maintained through an overview of a classic positivist design: Popper’s Hypothetico-Deductive model of scientific research.

As with previous chapters printer’s marks are visible and some chucklehead at the publisher has added some obvious pictures and even-more-obvious captions…

Structuring Actions: Classroom Discussion Strategies

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

One of the first things we usually teach students in Introductory Sociology classes is the idea that our actions are structured (the basic “roles, norms, values” etc. stuff) and classroom discussions can be an integral part of this teaching and learning process – encouraging students to think about what they’re learning and developing their knowledge and skills by exchanging ideas with others in a similar situation.

Unfortunately, if you’re anything like me, all the important “structure and action” stuff tends to go out of the window when it comes to actually managing discussions – and it can be frustrating when you fail to ask questions that open-up discussion or, worse-still, end up having an exchange of views with the loudest, most-opinionated, students while the rest of the class twiddle their thumbs (or, more-likely, surreptitiously text their friends).

Luckily, someone like Jennifer Gonzalez has thought more deeply than me about this problem and actually done something about it – the upshot of which is “15 formats for structuring a class discussion to make it more engaging, more organized, more equitable, and more academically challenging”. (more…)

8 | The Research Process: Part 1

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

While Research Methods at a-level aren’t everyone’s cup of tea they can be interesting if students are given the time and space to bring together the theory with the practice. Unfortunately I can’t help you here with the practice (although I can give you a few pointers about how to carry-out a range of cheap ’n’ cheerful activities), but I can help with the theory.

This chapter kicks things off by looking at the idea of research design – from choosing a problem to research, through developing a testable hypothesis or research question, to data collection and analysis. Along the way the chapter takes in a range of research-centred ideas students will have to understand if they are to make the most of methods:

• Research respondents
• Types of representative sampling
• Types of non-representative sampling
• Pilot studies
• Concept operationalisation
• Reliability and validity
• Primary and secondary data
• Quantitative and qualitative data and methods
• Ethics

Rethinking Obesity: Nature via Nurture?

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

This new film, featuring contributions from Dr Giles Yeo and Dr Clare Llewellyn, examines the evidence for and against the influence of environment and genetics in explaining obesity.

The 16 minute film is split into three sections:

The first focuses on “Nurture” – the influence of environmental factors, from advertising to food processing, as an explanation for the huge mean weight increases in Western societies such as America and Britain

The second looks at “Nature” – genetic factors such as the FTO gene – as a way of explaining why some individuals appear to gain weight more easily than others.

The final section examines the idea that to truly understand obesity we need to think in terms of the relationship between our genetic make-up and our social ad physical environment.

The complete film is available to rent or buy On-demand.

7 | Families and Households: Part 4

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

The final part of the Family chapter looks at “Roles, responsibilities and relationships within the family” through the media of:

• Domestic division of labour
• Power relationships
• Children and parents
• Functionalist / Marxist / Feminist explanations of family roles
• Demographic trends and changes

As with previous chapters I can’t emphasise strongly enough that I had absolutely nothing to do with:

a. The selection of pictures
b. The captions someone decided to add under the pictures.

6 | Families and Households: Part 3

Monday, September 11th, 2017

After the raw, enervating, excitement of Family Trends and the Role of Family in Society, the rollercoaster ride that is Family Life continues with the unalloyed joy that is Family Diversity.

While some commentators (who shall remain nameless because I haven’t named them) have described family diversity as a “thrill-a-minute fun-fest filled with fantastic fripperies”, more controversially, other, equally nameless, commentators have described it as being as dull as the rest of the family stuff. But I couldn’t possibly comment on this.

What I do know is that the chapter is filled with a range of diversity-related stuff (hence its name. Probably). This includes:

• Organisational diversity
• Class diversity
• Cultural diversity (age, gender, ethnicity)
• Sexual diversity (don’t get your hopes up, nothing to see here).

Things start to get a little more interesting (a term I use advisedly) when the chapter turns to look at two opposing views on contemporary family diversity (Postmodernist and New Right if you’re still reading this) but then things take a turn for the worse when the chapter ends with social policy.

Still, it’s free. So you can’t complain.

No, really.

Just Enjoy!

The Sociological Detectives: We Have A Situation…

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

This PowerPoint Presentation brings together a couple of ideas, one of which – the idea of “students playing the role of detectives” I’ve previously explored in a slightly different way. The other – a situation-based application – is one I’ve adapted from a couple of recent sources:

Firstly, the AQA Crime and Methods exam question that presented students with a scenario and then required them to assess the suitability of a particular research method for studying it.

Secondly the WJEC / Eduqas Criminology Specification that requires students to look at a situation – such as the behaviour of unruly youth – and show how a sociological explanation of their choice might understand and explain it.

The Situation

What this Presentation does, therefore, is set-up a situation – the behaviour of the aforementioned “unruly youth” – which students have to explain using a sociological approach of their choice. This can, of course, be adapted to your own particular teaching by, for example, asking different students to apply different approaches (Marxism, Feminism, etc.) and bringing their ideas together as a class. Alternatively, you may want the whole class to focus on a particular approach, such as Right Realism.

Where the exam / specification situation is one that’s simply described, either in words (exam) or words and pictures (specification) this version takes advantage of PowerPoint’s ability to display video – in this instance a relatively short (2 minutes 30 seconds) piece of film designed to do a couple of things:

The first minute of the film “sets-the-scene” by describing some aspects of a fictional town (“Castleton”) in terms of its broad social and economic make-up.

The remainder of the film outlines some of the “problems of unruly youth” whose behaviour students will have to explain by applying a criminological approach of their choice to the events they have viewed.

Aside from describing a situation, the film contains a number of simple visual and verbal clues students can pick-up on and use when they come to the “Report Stage” of the presentation. It includes, for example, the idea of social and material deprivation (Marxism), economic strains (Functionalism), Masculinity (Feminism) and broken windows (Right Realism). (more…)

5 | Families and Households: Part 2

Friday, September 8th, 2017

This part of the family chapter examines the role of family in society through two different and opposing structural approaches: Functionalism / Neo-Functionalism and Marxism / Neo-Marxism.

The content covered, in no particular order of significance, includes:

• Family functions and orientations
• The link between individuals and society
• Family dysfunctions (the “Dark side of family life”)
• The ideological, economic and political roles of the family
• Cultural, social and symbolic capital

As with previous chapters, the same slight caveats apply and they should not spoil your enjoyment of what must, by any yardstick, be counted as one of the most dynamic, interesting and exciting parts of the Sociology Specification.

4 | Families and Households: Part 1

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

Today’s free chapter turns the focus on family life to look at “Key concepts and trends within the family” – in basic terms a short introduction to the concept of “families” coupled with an overview of “family trends”. The latter are theorised in terms of both structural and relationship trends and
the chapter covers the following key areas:

• Defining family and household
• Family structures
• Structural trends
• Trends in families and households
• Marriage, cohabitation and divorce trends

As ever you need to be aware that the first thing to date is statistical evidence (the chapter was published in 2012 and the latest statistics included go back a couple of years before this – hard as it may seem to credit, it actually takes quite a bit of time to research and write these chapters before they’re actually published). However, given the easy availability of family statistics on the web it’s relatively easy to update the statistics for your students (or, better yet, get them to research the updates for you).

I’ve chopped the chapter into 4 parts to make it easier for teachers not following the Specification for which it was created (OCR -1) to pick-and-choose the sections they want to use.