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Archive for February, 2019

Neo-Functionalism: Dragging “Family Functions” into the 21st Century

Monday, February 18th, 2019

The “functions of the family” is an a-level course / exam staple and you can drag it out of the 20th century Murdock / Parsons duopoly by adding a neo-functionalist twist.

Are contemporary Western families characterised by a fluidity of gender roles?

For Swenson (2004), the focus is on adults as providers of a stable family environment for primary socialisation. This involves:

1. Roles conceived as both expressive and instrumental.

2. Providing children with a safe, secure, environment that gives free range to both expressive and instrumental roles and values.

In this respect neo-Functionalism suggests parents contribute to the socialisation process by giving their children a knowledge of both expressive and instrumental role relationships.

The key thing here, for Swenson, is that it doesn’t particularly matter which partner provides which; all that matters is they do – and the significance of this idea is that it means gender roles in contemporary families are not necessarily conceived as fix, unchanging and immutable – even for Functionalists.

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Sociology in Focus for AS: Family Resources

Friday, February 15th, 2019

This second set of free resources for users of the Sociology in Focus For AS textbook covers the ever-popular Families and Households Module and includes the following:

Exam Focus

Overview Map: A basic spider diagram you can use if you want to give students a broad overview of the content to be covered in the Module.

Revision Maps: Further, more-detailed, spider diagrams that map specific content to each Unit in the Module. These give students a broad indication of the work to be covered in each Module and can also be used as a handy revision aid.

Activity Answers: Complete, author-approved, answers to the questions that appear throughout the Module. A major time-saver when it comes to marking or an easy way for students to self-check their answers? The choice is yours.

Worksheets: Setting your students text-based tasks (individually and collectively) can be a useful way of checking learning or starting a discussion going. Each Worksheet is designed around three different activities:

  • Consolidate, designed for individual work to ensure students have “grasped the basics”.
  • Apply, designed to promote analysis, discussion and application through small-group work.
  • Evaluate, designed for whole-class discussions around arguments / evidence for and against a question.
  • Teaching Tips provide some simple ideas for teaching activities

    Exam Focus provides specimen questions, exemplar student answers and analysis by a senior examiner. Be aware, however, that the types of questions asked and the marks awarded to each type may have changed in the 10 years since this text was originally published.

    Sociology in Focus for A2: Methodology Resources

    Monday, February 11th, 2019

    If you’ve bagged yourself a copy of the Sociology in Focus for AQA A2 textbook and you’re wondering what to do with it beside read it, help is at hand with the addition of the resources originally produced to complement and supplement the text.

    Revision Map

    These, in no particular order, consist of:

    Overview Map: An introductory overview that maps the broad content in the book to each Unit in the Methodology Module.

    Revision Maps: Complementing the introductory overview, these spider diagrams delve a bit deeper, mapping specific content to each Unit in the Module.

    Activity Answers: One of the major features of the text is the activities / questions posed throughout and if you need suggested answers – to allow students to quickly check their learning, engage in a little peer review and marking or simply because it’s easier to mark student work when someone has already provided guideline answers – you’ll love this set of resources.

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    Sociology in Focus for A2: Free Textbook

    Sunday, February 10th, 2019

    Sociology in Focus for A2 is, as you may have guessed, the companion volume to the previously-posted AS text and it’s no great surprise that its design and layout perfectly complements its AS counterpart. This includes the by-now standard colour-coded sections, lots of pictures, activities and questions that, at the time, were considered a quite radical design departure that was not, it hardly needs to be said, to everyone’s taste.
    The main concern, particularly but not exclusively among those who were concerned about this kind of thing, was that something had to make way for all the activities, pretty pictures, questions and even prettier pictures.

    And that something was, inevitably, the amount of text that managed to squeeze its way on pages crammed with all kinds of attractive, if sometimes largely superfluous, imagery.

    While it’s relatively easy to get away with this at AS level, it’s somewhat harder to pull-off the same trick at A2 level.

    So does it manage to pull it off?

    Well. Yes and No.

    The text, although limited in length, is generally well-written and informative and sometimes takes students into areas – particularly related to sociological theory – they aren’t usually expected to venture. Unfortunately, by meandering off the beaten track the text runs the risk, at times, of failing to adequately cover the bare essentials.

    Although it’s a moot point as to whether this text alone adequately prepares students for A2, this is where you and your students are quid’s in: you can use bits-and-bobs to supplement the more up-to-date texts you undoubtedly use in your day-to-day teaching.

    Alternatively, it’s a nice, big, bold, colourful text with lots of ideas for activities. And questions.

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    Sociology in Focus for AS: Culture and Identity Resources

    Saturday, February 9th, 2019
    Culture and Identity Overview Map

    Having previously posted a copy of the Sociology in Focus AS textbook, I thought it might be useful to throw-in a little additional something by way of the resources that were originally produced to accompany the text.

    While there’s nothing outrageously brilliant about the resources, you might find some – or indeed all – of them a useful addition to the textbook. To allow you to pick-and-choose which resources you want, I’ve posted them in 6 separate categories that do exactly what they say on the tin:

    Overview Map:

    A spider diagram that broadly maps the main areas covered in each Unit in the Module.

    Revision Maps:

    More-detailed spider diagrams that map the main content of each Unit in the Module

    Activity Answers:

    Although Johnny Nash may be firmly of the opinion there are “More questions than answers“, in this particular instance he would be wrong. There are exactly the same number of answers here as questions. Which, all things considered, is probably as it should be.

    As to their function, you might find them useful if you want students to quickly check their own learning.

    More adventurously they can be used for things like peer review and marking.

    Worksheets:

    A Worksheet…

    While worksheets aren’t everyone’s cup of hot chocolate, these are slightly different in the sense they place less emphasis on individual working and more emphasis on small-group and whole class work. For each module there are three types of question, each of which is designed to promote different types of responses:

    • Consolidate questions, designed for individual work to ensure students have “grasped the basics”.
    • Apply questions designed to promote analysis, discussion and application through small-group work.
    • Evaluate questions designed for whole-class discussions around arguments / evidence for and against a question.

    Teaching Tips:

    Some fairly rudimentary ideas for different ways to teach various aspects of the Module., including some simple classroom activities.

    Exam Focus:

    Specimen questions and exemplar student answers. Be aware that the types of questions asked and the marks awarded to each type of question may have changed in the 10 years since this text was originally published.

    Free Textbook: Sociology in Focus for AS

    Friday, February 8th, 2019
    Sociology in Focus: Families and Households

    For those of you with long(ish) memories, the original Sociology in Focus textbook first appeared in the mid-1990’s and I remember being quite taken by its novel(ish) attempt to reinvent “The Textbook” as something more than just a lot of pages with a lot of text.

    Although it did, with hindsight, actually have “a lot of text” (they were much simpler times) it also had colour pages (if you include pale blue, black and white as “colour”), pictures (even though they were black and white, they still counted), activities and questions.

    A lot of questions.

    None of which had answers.

    You had to buy a separate resource if you wanted answers (something I casually mention in an apparently throwaway fashion that at some point in the future you will look back on and think “Ah! Foreshadowing).

    Anyway.

    Around 2004 Sociology in Focus was reinvented as a fully-fledged “Modern Text” with colour-coded sections, colour pictures and less text.  A lot less text.

    Although it was basically the same format laid-down by the original (activities, questions…) with a more student-friendly “down with the kids” vibe, it was now split into two books, one for AS-level and one for A2.

    Which brings me to 2009 and the emergence of a “2nd edition” (that was really a 3rd edition, but who’s counting?), suitably reorganised to take account of yet another Specification change that no-one asked for but which everyone got anyway.

    I’m guessing you’ll not be that surprised to know the format was pretty much the same (and by “pretty much” I mean “exactly”) because it clearly worked, although by this stage I got the distinct impression that most of the production effort was being put into what the text looked like and rather less effort was being placed on the task of updating it.

    While the new edition did reflect further changes to the AQA Sociology Specification – Mass Media, for example, was moved to A2 – there is actually little or no difference between the “AS Media” text of the 2nd edition and the “A2 Media” text of the 3rd edition…

    If you decide to use this textbook with your students – and it does actually have a lot going for it in terms of design and presentation – you need to be aware that the level of information in some sections (looking at you, Mass Media) may be slightly lacking in terms of depth of coverage. In addition, given yet more changes to the A-level Specification, some of the areas covered in the text are no-longer present in the latest Specification and one or two newer inclusions are obviously not covered.

    Having said that, I do think this is a worthwhile text to have available for your students and, given that it’s out-of-print, one of the few ways they’re ever going to be able to read it.

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    Progress Mat

    Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

    Although the idea of “learning progression” is something to which all teachers aim – if there was no progress there probably wouldn’t be much point in the class taking place – one problem is that it’s frequently difficult to successfully and succinctly document progression, whether you want such documentation as proof of progress to an outsider (such as a colleague or inspector) or for your own peace of mind.

    A Progress Mat…

    And this is where the Progress Mat comes into play.

    It provides a simple way to record and document learning within a class.

    It’s also a useful starting-point for a particular teaching technique.

    Who originally designed it, I’m not quite sure since the metadata simply reveals the rather enigmatic “Keith” as the author. All I’ve actually done is change a few minor things like the size of the presentation, replaced a rather horrible rainbow triangle with a “prior learning” square, added a couple more boxes and changed the colours slightly.

    I’ve also removed the rudimentary and frankly-quite-annoying animation. Because I could make such executive decisions and also because it was, frankly, quite annoying.

    Be that as it may, the Mat reflects a simple way of demonstrating progress: it begins with a baseline set of ideas – what students “already know” about a question or topic – and then documents how they add to and develop their knowledge and understanding during a lesson. The three broad areas on the Mat (new ideas / concepts, contemporary applications and links to sociological studies / writers) were created by the aforementioned Keith and while they fit broadly with the kinds of categorical skills students need to understand / acquire, I’ve left the Progress Mat in its original PowerPoint form so you easily change any, or indeed all, of these categories.

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