Archive for October, 2018

Crime and Deviance Theories

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

A little while back (maybe 5 or 6 years ago – I lose track) I created 3 Crime and Deviance Presentations that were, I like to think, quite ground-breaking at the time for their combination of text, graphics, audio and video – and while they may be looking a little dated now they still have a little mileage left in them. Probably. You can be the judge of that, I suppose.

Anyway, I think I only ever posted an early version of the Functionalism file and having rediscovered the files on one of my many hard drives I thought it might be nice to update the files slightly, mainly to fix a few little irritating bugettes, such as text not conforming correctly to the original font size and post them here.

The Presentations, which can be downloaded as PowerPoint Shows (.ppsx) in case you want to use them without the need to have PowerPoint, were, I think, originally designed as some sort of revision exercise, but I could be, and frequently am, wrong.


Themes and Directives: Essay Planning

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

This short PowerPoint Presentation is a classroom tool teachers can use to introduce their students to a way of planning answers to high-mark, extended answer (essay) questions. As such, it’s designed to:

1. Introduce the idea of Themes and Directives as planning tools.
2. Show students how to use these tools through a worked example.

The Presentation is effectively in two parts:

• if you only want to introduce the planning tools you can do this and then end the Presentation. The worked example is based on an essay question (“Outline and Assess Interactionist Theories of Crime and Deviance”) you may not want to use, which is one reason for dividing the Presentation in this way.

• if, on the other hand, you want to show your students how to use the tools you can use the complete Presentation. Each of the slides has full explanatory Notes if you need them.

However, you decide to use it, the Presentation is built around two ideas:


(Knife) Crime, Deviance, Media and Methods

Monday, October 29th, 2018

Because. LONDON!

“Knife Crime” as you’re probably aware, is increasingly in the news, particularly, but not exclusively, in London (because, quite frankly and a little rhetorically, is there anywhere else of any great significance in England?).

And while there are Definitely | Maybe | Probably (please delete as inapplicable) all kinds of reliability issues surrounding what counts as “knife crime” (and, indeed, how what counts can actually be counted) that you could explore if you were so inclined, a more pressing social (and, as it happens, sociological) problem is “Who’s responsible?”.

This, of course, is not an idle question and happily, if that’s the right word, both the social and the sociological problem meet around the notion of “gangs” (and “youth gangs” in particular).

However, before we start to develop some sort of hypothesis that might explain the relationship between “youth gangs” and the increase in serious knife crime (“knife crime with injury”) you might want to try this simple, single question, quiz on your students as a prelude to the serious stuff of explaining the data.

As befits my sociological inexactitude I’ve formulated the quantitative quiz in either of two ways (one open-ended, the other closed-ended):

And you call that a Staffie? Really? Sort it out!


Q1. In your own words, what percentage of “knife crime with injury” in London is committed by youth gangs?


Q1. In London, what percentage of “knife crime with injury” is committed by youth gangs?

1. 45%?
2. 4%?


Stealing to Offer: A Market Reduction Approach

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

While Situational Crime Prevention (SCP) strategies come in many forms, the majority focus on identifying and developing ways to stop an offence taking place.

Market Reduction Approaches, however, while sharing a similar crime reduction / elimination objective, are a little different because their focus is on preventing offenders profiting from various forms of economic crime, such as theft, by reducing the markets for stolen goods.

While this may seem a little counter-intuitive – how effective is a “crime prevention approach” that says little or nothing about actually preventing crime? – there is evidence to suggest (Sutton, 2008) that preventing offenders liquidating stolen assets is an effective form of crime prevention and control.

In general, ideas about Situational Crime Prevention fall into two main categories:

1. Reducing the potential benefits offenders get from their crimes.

2. Increasing the potential costs offenders face when deciding whether or not to commit a crime.

Most situational crime prevention initiatives have generally given greater attention to the latter, while less interest has been shown in the former. Although there may be a number of reasons for this, one possibility is the belief that increasing costs reduces crime and therefore obviates the need to address the “benefit reduction problem”: reducing levels of crime by increasing costs, so this argument goes, effectively takes the “benefit problem” out of the equation.

However, the idea that increasing the costs of crime actually reduces crime – as opposed, for example, to displacing it – is one that has come to be increasingly questioned, partly because it doesn’t address an offender’s underlying motivations for crime.

If, for example, one motive is to commit a crime, such as theft, in order to sell stolen goods for cash to buy drugs, making it harder and riskier to steal simply ups-the-ante for the offender, rather than necessarily preventing a crime from taking place.

A Market Reduction Approach (MRA) to crime takes the opposite view: rather than controlling crime by making the act itself more difficult and riskier, it argues that making it more difficult or, ideally, impossible, for offenders to benefit from their crimes – by restricting or eliminating their ability to convert stolen goods into cash for example – is a highly-effective form of crime prevention.

What’s their value if you can’t sell them?

In this respect, MRA suggests the costs of crime shouldn’t be treated as being separate from and unconnected to its potential benefits. Rather, such costs are, in effect, rolled-up into “a lack of benefit”, such as an inability to sell the goods you have stolen.

The logic here is that if you can’t convert what you’ve stolen – such as a mobile phone or computer – into cash, it takes away the incentive and motivation to steal them in the first place. This follows for two reasons:

1. There’s little point in taking the risk of stealing something if it is worthless to you (unless, of course, you particularly like hoarding mobile phones, computers, various electrical goods and the like)

2. You are left to store a range of worthless goods that, if discovered, may lead to jail time.

Sutton argues here that an effective MRA involves reducing:

• the number of offers of stolen goods made by thieves to potential buyers
• the outlets for stolen goods
• the number of thieves and handlers by encouraging them to explore non-criminal alternatives, rather than just alternative crimes.

The logic here is one that reduces the need to increasingly “raise the costs of crime” (with all its attendant private and public expenditure, inconvenience and so forth) by focusing police and public attention on reducing the benefits of crime. If an offender knows they will gain no benefit – because they can’t convert their crimes into cash – this removes most of, if not all, their motivation for crime.

This has the additional social benefit of both reducing the costs of dealing with offenders (through arrests, prosecutions, prisons and so forth) and reducing the risk of offending / re-offending; if a potential offender is demotivated by a sound knowledge of a lack of perceived benefit, there is little reason to suppose they will continue to offend.


SWOTing for Success

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

A flexible organisational tool to help students identify, apply and evaluate perspectives, theories, concepts and methods.

A couple of previous posts (Make a Pitch and Selling Sociological Sausages) outlined a simple “branding activity” that could be used as a classroom-based exercise / simulation whereby students try to “pitch” or “sell” a perspective, theory or method and the pursuit of this idea led me, in a roundabout way, to SWOT – a standard type of organisational assessment-based tool built around four ideas: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

The basic idea here is that by focusing on the key SWOT categories an organisation can assess:

• the things they do well (strengths)
• the things they do badly (weaknesses)
• their future goals (opportunities)
• the things that may prevent them reaching those goals (threats).

It occurred to me that this kind of simple organisational tool could – with a bit of tweaking – be used to help students identify, apply and evaluate their knowledge and understanding to just about any perspective, theory, concept or method, albeit in a similar way to the “Selling Sociological Sausages” idea.

However, on the basis that you can never have too many good ideas in your Teaching Toolkit, I thought it might be useful to at least outline the SWOT tool as a further option, mainly because it’s:

• easy-to-understand
• simple to apply
• clearly-organised and consistent
• applicable across any course (in this case sociology and / or psychology a-level).


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?