Archive for October, 2018

Make A Pitch: selling sociological sausages

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

In response to the silent clamour (that only I could hear apparently) for something a little more substantial and pdfeffy, I’ve created a short booklet based around the “Selling Sociological Sausages” Lesson Outline I’ve previously posted.

It’s basically a pdf version of the post, although it both clarifies the different versions and changes a few bits and pieces relating to the simulation / activity. While these changes are relatively trivial they do, I think, help to firm-up the exercise and, in one instance, make it a little more coherent.

The other thing I’ve done is change the name of the activity to Make A Pitch, with Selling Sociological Sausages as more of a sub-heading now. It doesn’t really change anything or make much of a difference but perhaps gives the casual browser a bit more of an idea about the nature of the activity.

The only other thing to note is that although I’m much too lazy (probably) to create a separate booklet, if you’re a psychology teacher it’s perfectly possible to apply the activity to your subject. All you really need to do is change “sociology” to “psychology” (oh yes) and substitute your own favoured perspectives, psychologists, theories or methods.

Selling Sociological Sausages

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

An outline for a simple “branding” activity that can be used to teach a wide range of ideas (from perspectives to methods). In providing a lesson outline the idea is to make the activity fairly loose to allow teachers to adapt it in ways that suit their particular style and level of teaching.

Although this is really just a simple evaluation exercise disguised as something a bit more interesting it does have its benefits. Things like:

• students more-actively engaged in their learning.
• targeted teacher time for those who need it.
• greater student investment in their learning.
• A focus on both knowledge and higher skills.

While you can make the activity as simple or as complex as you like (by adding or removing different layers), the basic idea involves choosing a sociologist / perspective / theory or method and asking students to “market it” as if they were selling sausages (other meat / vegetarian options are available).

• Divide the class into small groups (or work individually if you prefer).

• Each group takes on the role of a Marketing / Design Agency tasked with selling whatever you want them to learn (such as different sociological perspectives on education).

Simple Version

For a short version of the exercise:

• give each group a perspective on education to sell.

• their task is to “represent the brand” by designing an advertising proposal that shows it off in the best possible light to a customer (i.e. the focus will be on identifying and emphasising the strengths of the perspective).

• if you want to extend this you can also commission each group to design a proposal for “attack adverts” that aim to show competing perspectives in a poorer light (i.e. you identify and emphasise the weaknesses of competing perspectives).

For both tasks you need to remind students that as reputable agencies they must always be factual in their statements. If they are less than truthful their proposal may be rejected for falling foul of advertising regulations.


Lend Your Mind To Science

Saturday, October 13th, 2018

Testable Minds seems to be an off-shoot of Testable – a web site that provides a relatively simple way to create behavioural experiments and surveys (there’s a free option if you want to give it a try. Alternatively, if you’re merely curious about what the site can do there are a few examples to explore, including a picture naming test and a face detection test).

While Testable focuses on the creation of on-line experiments, for Testable Minds the focus is squarely on participating in online psychological and behavioural experiments.

In other words, it’s a way of recruiting respondents for whatever psychological experiment the researcher is currently running.

While this gives students, as the site suggests “the opportunity to contribute to our quest to understand how the mind works”, participating in the various experiments on offer has a couple of further attractions:

1. It gives students first-hand experience of psychological research. This could be useful for teachers who want to introduce a little real-world relevance to their classes.

2. Not only do students get to participate in and contribute to various real-life psychological experiments currently being conducted worldwide, they also get paid for the privilege of participating.

Admittedly the fees aren’t huge – typically $1 – $3 (around 75p – £2) per experiment – but given that you’re actually being paid to advance the sum store of the world’s knowledge (possibly), that doesn’t seem like too bad a deal.

Interactive Ethics

Friday, October 12th, 2018

Following-on from the previous post where I suggested how it might be possible to spin-off a discussion of research ethics from a naturalistic observation simulation, my attention was drawn towards this interesting offering from the Open University – an online “interactive challenge” designed to help students understand “why research ethics is really a researcher’s best friend”.

As you may have noticed, the OU Marketing Department seems pretty gung-ho in they’re advocacy of ethical considerations in social research.

And rightly so.


Anyway. In this simple interactive challenge you’re “taken through a case to look at where and when you think the ethics committee might step in and why this would be necessary. Meet a fictional committee and become a member!”.

In other words, you’re introduced to a range of characters who might conceivably be part of a University Committee and then asked to give your opinion, based on the evidence presented, as to whether the research submission under consideration (“the role of the police and their attitudes towards sex worker ‘zones of tolerance’ i.e. the way sex workers may be allowed to operate in certain controlled areas in some UK cities) is ethical across four main criteria:

• Valid Consent
• Do no harm
• Data Protection
• Researcher safety

In basic terms you’re presented with some text about the proposed conduct of the research and then asked to give an opinion about its ethicality (a word I may just have invented) in relation to any of these categories.

The challenge only takes a few minutes (probably 15 at the most) and it’s a really neat way to introduce students to ethics, ethical issues and the role of an ethics committee.

It’s also Quite Good Fun.

Not words usually associated with a lesson on Ethics.


Naturalistic Observation Lesson Plan

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

I’m a firm believer that when it comes to teaching research methods you can never have too many examples of lesson plans that either simulate the process of “doing research” or, as in the case of Bernard C. Beins (Counting Fidgets: Teaching the Complexity of Naturalistic Observation), turn it into a simple, but effective, lesson activity that:

• is easy to set-up and run
• requires very few resources
• involves very little pre-preparation
• is unobtrusive and relatively short
• produces a large amount of data for discussion, analysis and evaluation.

While the lesson plan is explicitly aimed at psychology students it’s equally useful for sociologists, because the overall objective is simply to provide a context – the classroom activity – that can be used to analyse and evaluate naturalistic observation in terms of its strengths and weaknesses.

And if you want to introduce your students to these ideas you could always throw a short video into the pre-discussion mix: Naturalistic Observation is available On-Demand to buy or rent as well as being available on our Non-Experimental Research Methods DVD that also includes Self-Report Methods, Correlations and Case Studies.


Problem-Based Learning: Childhood Obesity

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

Although I’m quite a fanboy for Problem-Based Learning, if you’re not familiar with the approach it’s one that, in a nutshell, encourages students to explore a question (“The Problem”) by researching information and proposing an appropriate solution. If you want a slightly more detailed explanation this short piece by Genareo and Lyons should fit the bill.

PBL is an approach I’m attracted to because it encourages students to think about and apply their knowledge to particular teacher-specified situations and, by so doing, evaluate the information they’re using. It represents a kind of holistic approach to teaching that involves the student directly in their own learning, guided at various points as-and-when required by their teacher. In this respect, PBL has what I like to think are a number of advantages:


Rational Choice Theory | 1a

Monday, October 1st, 2018

If you’ve had a look at the Rational Choice Theory | 1 post and were wondering if there are further parts “in the pipeline”, the short answer is “Yes”.

There will be a further part that gives RCT a good critical kicking the once-over in terms of weaknesses and limitations.

I’ve written most of it but am still messing around with the order of things, plus I need to think about how I can express the ideas of bounded rationality and bounded choices in a way that doesn’t overly-confuse A-level students.

In the meantime, while you’re waiting I thought it might be useful to put the text-heavy Part 1 into a more-visual form, via a simple PowerPoint Presentation, in case you find it easier to talk-and-teach students through this material.

And who doesn’t?