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Archive for October, 2017

20 | Health: Part 1

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Although Health may not be the most popular option on the A-level Sociology Spec. (and is probably next in line for the chop when they finally reduce the syllabus to the barest of bare bones) it’s surprisingly interesting – something I discovered when researching this chapter because, like the majority of Sociology teachers, it’s not a topic I’ve ever taught.

Be that as it may – and be assured that it is – this chapter looks at the social construction of health and illness beginning, as is by now traditional with these OCR chapters, with a few Key Concepts to settle the nerves and get the creative juices flowing. Or not, as the case may be.

Anyway, the first part of the chapter looks at:

• Defining health (both positive and negative state models)
• Defining illness and sickness (including an outline of the Sick Role)
• Approaches to health and illness through two opposing models (biomedical and social) in terms of their basic assumptions, relationships, strengths and weaknesses.
• The distinction between rates of morbidity and mortality

The second part of the chapter looks specifically at the social construction of heath in terms of how different societies develop different ideas about concepts like health and illness. The focus here is on three broad areas:

• Cultural relativity
• Lay definitions
• The social process of becoming ill

Overall the chapter has a few nice graphics (don’t thank me, all part of the service), some crazy mnemonics (I like mnemonics, okay) and one (count it) picture. Clearly the already “limited” (for which read “non-existent”) budget for pictures had finally run out by the time we got to this final chapter. As per, there are a few printer’s marks visible but what do you expect for absolutely nothing?

Trial: And Error: Online version

Monday, October 30th, 2017

While PowerPoint is fine for displaying via desktop devices it’s not quite so clever when it comes to the different devices, from tablets to mobiles, potentially being used inside and outside the a-level classroom.

If, therefore, you want a portable (html5) version of the Sociological Detectives Research Process Simulation that has the same functionality as the PowerPoint version, I’ve created an online version that you’re more than welcome to try. Although it doesn’t do anything different to the PowerPoint version it’s a version that students can access at anytime, before or after the particular lesson in which the simulation is used.

In the case of the former you might want your students to familiarise themselves with the sim before you link it to Popper’s Hypothetico-Deductive model of research. This involves a kind of flipped learning where students familiarise themselves with the basic analogy used in the sim and which can then be applied and evaluated in a lesson.

Alternatively it can be used after a lesson as a way for students to recap the ideas you’ve introduced.

Family Relocation: A Neglected Dimension of Power?

Saturday, October 28th, 2017

When looking at power relationships within families there are a number of fairly-obvious areas – such as domestic labour and violence (both physical and sexual) – that tend to receive most of the critical focus at A-level. While not suggesting this “dark side of the family” is somehow unimportant, insignificant or unworthy of so much attention, an over-concentration on these “manifest and obvious” displays of power can result in other, perhaps more-subtle, examples of power imbalances being overlooked. This is particularly the case where power relationships become a little more complicated, messy and not so clearly bound-up in relations of individual, physical, domination and subordination.

One such area relates to work and family relocation for dual-earner families where decisions have to be made about whose work has the greatest priority when, for example, the family needs to move. Hardill (2003), for example, found women were more likely to be the ‘trailing spouse’ in this relationship: male occupations had greater priority and the family relocated to follow male employment patterns.

While this type of research is interesting and suggestive, a further question to consider is whether these types of decision-making are indicative of greater male status and higher levels of power within the family group, rather than simply reflecting male-female economic differences in wider society. (more…)

Free Resources: Napier Press

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

It’s probably fair to say that “A-level Sociology” by Webb et al is one of the best-selling textbooks for the AQA Specification and if you follow this Spec. or, more importantly perhaps, use this book the resources available on the Napier Press web site should come in handy.

If you don’t use this text the site has a range of sample pages from both the textbooks (year 1 and year 2) and the accompanying Revision Guides designed to give you a general overview of what’s on offer and maybe tempt you into a purchase.

Either way, there are still resources available that, with a bit of thought and tinkering, could be adapted for use with different texts. Whether or not you think it’s worth the effort is probably a matter of personal choice:

Schemes of work covering both Year 1 and Year 2 are probably worth a look: at the very least they give an insight into possible topic timings and learning objectives. As you’d expect, the suggested activities and resources are squarely fixed on the textbook, although there are suggestions for a few wider – mainly video – resources.

Similarly the Lesson Plans that, for some reason, begin and end with Education and Methods in Context are heavily reliant on the textbook. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with this, entirely-understandable, approach it doesn’t leave a great deal of scope for variety or imagination. Should you choose to ignore the content, however, they’re still a potentially useful resource as a template for lesson planning.

Alongside this there are an extensive range of ready-made student activities for Year 1 and Year 2 topics, although, like the workschemes / lesson plans they’re all quite similar in scope and format (read some text, watch a bit of video, answer the questions…). There are some, however, that break this format to provide more-innovative activities.

Finally, the site offers a number of workbooks, again divided into Year 1 and Year 2 topics. These are strictly tied to the text, which is great if it’s the one you’re using, but even if you’re not there’s plenty here to inspire – by which, of course, I mean steal and adapt – if you’re into the whole Workbook thing.

Trial: And Error Frontend

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

In response to quite literally no-one asking for it, we’ve created a Frontend – what people laughingly used to call “a Menu” – for the Research Process sim. This brings together three elements of a possible lesson (the Simulation PowerPoint, Hypothetico-Deductive PowerPoint and “Nature of Science” pdf) in one handy, easy to access, place.

Apart from the aforesaid handiness, using a Frontend looks a bit more professional and may give the not-entirely-erroneous impression that we know exactly what we’re doing when OfSted – or some over-zealous SMT-type – is In The House.

To use the Frontend all the files need to be in the same directory, but since it uses relative addressing it will work from any directory you create. Even if, for some reason known only to you and your dog, you’re in the habit of naming directories after your pets. It does happen.

A couple more things:

1. The PowerPoints run as Shows (.ppsx) which means they will work on a device that doesn’t have PowerPoint.

2. You need to have a pdf Reader – Adobe or otherwise – on your device (it doesn’t have to be in the same directory as the pdf file). Otherwise you won’t be able to open the “Nature of Science” pdf.

And that could be embarrassing.

Or maybe liberating.

One of the two.

The Sociological Detectives: Trial: And Error

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

The latest addition to the burgeoning Sociological Detectives™ Universe is a role-playing simulation of the Research Process – and Popper’s Hypothetico-Deductive Model of Scientific Research in particular – that uses the analogy of a criminal investigation to help students understand and experience how and why the research process is structured.

The simulation takes the students through a number of stages in the investigation – from identifying a problem to prosecuting the guilty party – that mirror the different stages in Popper’s Model.

The basic idea here is that the role-playing element, whereby students are faced with a range of suspects and evidence from which they have to choose one individual they believe the evidence shows is guilty, adds an interesting dimension to what can be a fairly dry and difficult-to-teach area – particularly if you don’t have the time or resources to engage in some hands-on application. (more…)

19 | Religion: Part 4

Friday, October 20th, 2017

The “secularisation debate” is one of the perennial themes in the sociology of religion and this chapter examining the strength of religion in society is mainly given-over to an outline and evaluation of the two main sides to the argument:

1. Evidence indicating the secularisation of society examines concepts of institutional, practical and ideological religious decline.

2. Evidence against the secularisation of society examines ideas about the overstatement of decline across different societies, the contemporary strength of religious influence and the notion of religious evolution. This includes ideas about religious pluralism and the resacrilisation of (some) societies.

In addition to the above the chapter considers two further ideas:

Firstly, the concept of post-secularisation – an acknowledgement that while religious influence has clearly declined in some areas, it still makes important cultural and moral contributions to society.

Finally, the idea that rather than see religion and religiosity in terms of pro-or-anti secularisation we need to build on the post-secularisation debate and consider whether we should move “beyond secularisation” to look at changing concepts of religiosity in terms of “competing narratives in postmodern societies”.

18 | Religion: Part 3

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

The third chapter in our trawl through the murky waters of organised (and disorganised, come to that) religion looks at the relationship between religion and social position in two broad ways:

Firstly terms of the so-called (by me at least) “CAGE” variables: class, age, gender and ethnicity. This section both outlines the relationship between each of these variables and religious beliefs / practices and evaluates a range of possible explanations for the relationships uncovered.

Secondly, the chapter looks at the appeal of modern religious movements to different social groups, with the focus here on two types:

a. New religious movements, based on Daschke and Ashcraft’s (2005) idea of ‘interrelated pathways’ that examines a broad typology of five different groupings (Perception, Identity, Community or ‘Family’, Society and Earth).

b. New Age movements, based on a typology of Explicitly religious, Human potential and Mystical movements.

Those of you who like your religion with pictures will be saddened to learn that there’s only one (and since this is the “pre-permission” version of the chapter, the spiritual purity of a group of Transcendental Meditation practitioners is somewhat sullied by a dirty great watermark that takes up most of the frame). The disappointment both of these facts might engender may be dispelled by the inclusion of a few tables and a lot of mnemonics.

Or possibly not.

17 | Religion: Part 2

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

No sociological analysis of religion would be complete without looking at the role it plays in society and, as luck would have it, this particular chapter examines the role of religion from a number of different perspectives – both inclusive and exclusive – whose main ideas are outlined and briefly evaluated:

• Functionalist
• Neo-Functionalist
• Marxist
• Neo-Marxist
• Weberian
• Neo-Weberian
• Postmodern

Once again this chapter was written (a word I use loosely) for the OCR AS Sociology Specification-but-one, but since just about every other A-level(ish) Sociology Specification worth the name covers this particular area it should be applicable to them in some way.

As ever I can take no responsibility for either the pictures or their captions, for the deceptively-simple reason that They Were Nothing To Do With Me.

 

Mind Changers

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

Mind Changers was a long-running BBC Radio series broadcast between 2003 – 2015 that “explored the development of the science of psychology during the 20th century” – something achieved through a series of 30-minute interviews with / about some of the major psychological thinkers of the past century.

The 33 episodes currently in the BBC Archive will be mainly of interest to psychology teachers and students (subjects range from Little Albert and Harlow’s Monkeys, through Loftus on Eye-Witness Testimony to Carol Dweck and Growth Mindset) but there are a number of cross-over studies that sociology teachers and students will find useful too:

Rosenhan’s Pseudo-Patient Study
Mayo and the Hawthorne Effect
Bandura’s Bobo Doll Experiment
The Stanford Prison Experiment
John/Joan – The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl
The Wild Boy of Aveyron
The Asch Studies of Conformity

Chinese Parents’ Involvement in Children’s Education

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that from time-to-time we’ve been able to feature research done by Richard Driscoll’s Sociology A-level students at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China and the latest study to come our way, by Ma Jia Ying, looks at the involvement of Chinese parents in decisions made by their sons and daughters about what to study in higher education.

The research should be interesting to UK teachers and students for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, it gives a comparative cultural insight into family relationships and educational processes in an area that will be familiar to many UK students – the extent to which family pressures impact on the choices made by individual students in terms of their future educational careers.

Secondly, another interesting dimension is the construction and implementation of the research itself: this is made manifest in areas like the choices made by the researcher in terms of sampling, research methods, reliability, validity and so forth, their awareness of methodological uses and limitations and their evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of their research.

If you want to get in touch with Richard about this research, his students or maybe to make a fruitful contact between your school / college students and his – you can contact him via his Twitter account

16 | Religion: Part 1

Sunday, October 8th, 2017

The opening chapter in this series on religion looks at “Key Concepts and the Changing Nature of Religious Movements in Society” – something that lends itself neatly to two broad sections:

1. Key Concepts – an “introduction to the sociology of religion” that covers two important areas:

• how we define religion, considered in terms of inclusive and exclusive approaches
• how we measure religious belief (religiosity).

2. Religious Movements looks at their changing nature in terms of identifying and explaining:

• Different types of religious institution and movement (church, sect, denomination and cult).
• New Religious Movements
• New Age Movements
• Religious Fundamentalism.

As ever there are a few distracting printer’s marks and, mercifully, only a couple of (at that point uncleared) pictures with captions written by the “Self-Evident Caption Company”. Probably.

Youth Culture: Miscellaneous Files

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

While rooting around on one of my many hard drives I came across a folder which contained, among other things, a whole host of files on Youth Culture. They seem to have been created by a couple of people (d.capper and c.johnson) around 2009 / 10, which means they relate specifically to the OCR Specification but one (or maybe two? I’ve lost count).

Anyway, although I’ve no idea who the authors might be – or in which school / college they teach – I thought some of the files might be a useful complement to the 4 (count ‘em) Youth Culture chapters I’ve recently posted.

Although I’ve discarded files that referred directly to whatever Specification it was they originally referred to, this still leaves a batch of files I’ve divided, partly for convenience and partly because I like categorising stuff, into two areas – Notes and Activities / Planning and Feedback:

(more…)

15 | Youth: Part 4

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Although the concept of “youth culture” – a ‘shared way of life’, with its own distinctive roles, values, norms, beliefs and practices, common to young people and different to other generational groups (such as the elderly) – has a certain face validity, it’s not one that has a great deal of sociological currency in contemporary societies (for reasons we’ve previously outlined and explored).

Similarly, the concept of youth subcultures is one that has, it’s probably fair to say, fallen out of the sociological mainstream in recent times, partly because of the dramatic decline in its “spectacular” forms (the mods, hippies and punks of your parents (and possibly grandparents) generations), but mainly because even in these spectacularly overt forms there is actually very little evidence of subcultural organisation – such as the ability to socialise new members or reproduce the group over time, for example.

While “youth subcultures”, in other words, are seen as behavioural forms that are, by definition, defined by the overwhelming presence and participation of “young people”, there’s arguably little evidence they constitute subcultural groupings in the generally-accepted use of the term.

It’s Dead, Dave. They’re all Dead

Youth culture and subculture are, in this respect, sometimes called “zombie concepts” -explanations that, while they once had some form of life, have long-ago ceased to have any real meaning, currency or relevance for our understanding of young people’s behaviour. They’re dead, but they just don’t know it (although they can still be dangerous because they cloud the way we think about youth).

(more…)

14 | Youth: Part 3

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

One area of social life in which the relationship between youth and specific types of behaviour is particularly clear is that of offending behaviour. Young people – principally young, working class, men – are hugely over-represented in the crime statistics and since this series of chapters is linked by ideas about Youth Culture and Subculture it would be useful to explore the relationship between Youth and Deviance in more detail.

In order to do this the chapter is divided into three main sections:

Firstly, an outline of a range of key concepts – the distinction between crime and deviance, how we define youth, how we measure crime, moral panics, deviancy amplification and the like – that can be applied to this area of social life.

Secondly, a section that outlines the evidence, in terms of patterns and trends, about the nature and extent of youth deviance. This section is further subdivided according to social class, gender and ethnicity.

Finally, it looks at how different sociological approaches – in this instance Functionalist, Marxist and Interactionist – explain the patterns and trends in youth deviance outlined in part 2.

While the chapter is specifically aimed at the OCR Youth Culture Unit it’s one that should have general application for any Specification that looks at the nature of crime and deviance in terms of patterns and trends in offending behaviour and how these might be sociologically explained.