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Archive for July, 2019

Teaching and Learning: The Jigsaw Method

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019
The 10 steps of the Jigsaw Method.
10 (easy) Steps…

This is an interesting teaching and learning method I stumbled across while reading an article by Jennifer Gonzalez on “In-Class Flipped Teaching” -something I mention because it’s worth looking at if you’re interested in the idea of flipped learning “with a twist”, but by no-means essential for your enjoyment (or otherwise) of this post.

The Jigsaw Method is a teaching tool first developed in the early 1970’s by Professor Elliot Aronson and one of it’s great strengths is it’s simplicity, particularly in terms of:

• understanding the basic principles of the method.

• organising your classroom to employ the method.

• the value of its pedagogic content.

If you’re interested in using the method, the Jigsaw Classroom website outlines the “10 Steps” you need to follow to implement it.

In addition, Jennifer Gonzalez has created a short video explainer that shows you everything (probably) you need to know about setting-up a Jigsaw Classroom.

This is worth watching in addition to reading the “10 Steps” because it adds a couple of bits of very useful information that are worth knowing / considering not included in the 10 Steps document.

Introduction to A-Level Sociology: Cultural Differences

Sunday, July 28th, 2019
Click to download as pdf
Introduction to AS Sociology

For reasons that will become clear in a moment, I was searching for a document or two about Sherbit Culture to accompany a 5-minute film clip I’d assembled from some old (2000 – 2002-ish) HSBC adverts. The idea was to use the film as a light-hearted way to introduce the concept of cultural differences to GCSE or A-Level sociologists and, from there, create a springboard to the introduction of basic concepts like values, norms and roles – the kind of stuff most teachers do at the start of the course.

While that’s still the intention, I happened to stumble across a couple of useful little resources you might also find helpful and, indeed, complementary:

The first, An Introduction to AS Sociology from Ullswater Community College (2007, hence the “AS” reference) has a range of notes and tasks on areas like the Sociological Imagination, Identity, Nature and Nurture and Shirbit Culture.

The second is a free PowerPoint (“Meet the Shirbits”) created by Jacqueline Ryan (2010) as part of a short Introduction to Sociology quiz. The latter uses a supplied reading taken from the Collins Sociology AS for AQA textbook.

Anyway, to complement these resources – or just to use as a standalone introduction from which you can spin-off whatever ideas and issues (from basic norms and values to discussion of cultural stereotypes…) – this is the “cultural difference” clip I’ve created (the quality of the original film isn’t great and I’ve edited-out the original HSBC idents. Because I felt like it).

Belonging Without Believing

Friday, July 26th, 2019

I seem to have got into a habit of writing stuff about secularisation recently, whether it be the more-or-less straightforward stuff about the intergenerational decline in religious beliefs to accompany the long-term decline in religious practices in countries like Britain or the rather more left-field increase in paranormal beliefs recently seen in countries like the United States.  

Sunday Assembly

While the two are probably not unconnected – Routledge (2017) argues that as societies become less overtly religious they witness a concomitant increase in supernatural / paranormal beliefs – I happened to stumble across another religion-related idea that could be usefully thrown into the secular(isation) mix – the idea of Belonging without Believing, as reflected in the American-based Oasis Network, founded in 2012, and it’s English equivalent the “Sunday Assembly” that first saw the light of day in 2013.

Popularly dubbed secular churches, the basic idea is that just as various groups gather on a Sunday to participate in a religious service of some description, Sunday Assemblies serve much the same sort of purpose for the non-religious; they represent small communities where secular congregations come together to “sing songs, hear inspiring talks, and create community together” – without the need for any religious trappings or content.

While the idea of secular congregations that ape what Durkheim called the function, if not necessarily the form, of religious congregationalism is hardly new (think football matches and pop festivals, for example), what marks something like the Sunday Assemblies or Oasis Network apart as far as a-level sociology is concerned is the fact they explicitly copy a religious congregationalist form, albeit in a secular context.

Or maybe not?

While this general idea is sociologically interesting, it’s important not to overstate the significance of the expansion of the Sunday Assemblies / Oasis Networks, across America and the UK in particular, in terms of both numbers – worldwide congregationalists can be counted in the thousands rather than millions – and social need: as Woodhead (2019) argues, while “communities can be hugely important to people, you can’t just meet for the sake of community itself. You need a very powerful motivating element to keep people coming, something that attendees have in common” – an idea reflected by a recent worldwide decline in both the number of Sunday Assembly / Oasis chapters and the number of people attending such meetings.

Whether this decline reflects the difficulties involved in creating, maintaining and growing this type of secular community organisation in late modernity or something, as Woodhead suggests, more-fundamental about these types of quasi-religious organisations is an interesting question…

British Social Attitudes: Selected Surveys

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019
Subjective Social Class…

NatCen describe themselves as “Britain’s largest independent social research agency”, one that works “on behalf of government and charities to find out what people really think about important social issues” and while they produce a lot of statistical stuff™ that’s probably of interest to someone, of most interest to a-level sociology teachers and students will probably be the fact NatCen is responsible for carrying-out the British Attitudes Survey – an annual questioning of around 3,000 respondents on a wide diversity of topics.

This research is useful for a-level sociologists for, I would hazard, four main reasons:

1. It’s free:

While this is always one of my top considerations when thinking about social research, “free” is not in and of itself always very useful.

There’s more…

Losing Their Religion? Using Statistical Evidence to Evaluate Secularisation

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

The secularisation debate in A-level Sociology, encompassing a wide diversity of ideas around pro, anti and post-secularisation positions, is an increasingly complex area for students to cover. Although this can make it a somewhat daunting topic, it also provides significant opportunities for students to critique these different positions (and gain solid marks for knowledge, application and evaluation into the bargain).

Given the argumentative nature of a debate that so often seems to turn on interpretations of different opinions, this, somewhat perversely perhaps, opens-up interesting opportunities for students to apply statistical data to different aspects of the debate and, by so doing, introduce highly-effective forms of evaluation into exam answers.

In this respect the latest British Social Attitudes Survey (2019) covering religious beliefs, attitudes and practices is a useful teaching resource in the sense it provides some interesting empirical evidence students can apply to evaluate two areas of the secularisation debate:

(more…)

A Cage and Freezing Water: One Woman’s Journey Through Depression

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019
Click to view preview
A Cage and Freezing Water

Our latest Psychology offering is a bit of a departure from the norm in that it’s focused on giving students an impression of what it’s actually like to suffer from depression through one woman’s experience of the condition – the fatigue, the feeling of being trapped and the continual voices in her head that told her to end her life.

While the film is not designed to give a “textbook” overview of the possible causes of depression, it’s presented in a psychological context that seeks to explore the experiences – and consequences – of depression in a way that provides a sympathetic, if at times unsettling, introduction to the subject.

This makes the film suitable as a general introduction to the topic of depression and the basis for students to explore possible causes, therapies and explanations.

The film does, however, touch on a range of mature themes – such as suicidal thoughts – that might make it unsuitable for certain audiences.

Sociological Research Methods On Demand

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

3 short films whose aim is not simply to tell students about sociological methods, but to show their strengths and limitations in action by looking at how these methods have been applied in key sociological studies. The films, also available on DVD, are now available to buy as individual titles on our new Vimeo On-Demand site.

Case Studies [5 minutes]

If you go and see your doctor or a therapist, you’ll become a ‘case’ to them. They’ll want to know a lot more about you. Similarly, sociological case studies involve putting a social group, an event or a place ‘under the microscope’. This film looks at a classic sociological study, The Spiritual Revolution, to show why case studies are used in sociology, what they provide for the sociologist and the extent to which findings can be generalised.

Self Report Methods: Interviews and Questionnaires [7 minutes]

How do school students negotiate the pressures to perform well academically alongside the pressure to popular and cool? Carolyn Jackson combined questionnaires and interviews to research this question and this film uses her study, Lads and Ladettes, to illustrate why these methods are chosen, their respective strengths and limitations and how the strengths of one can be used to offset the limitations of the other.

Participant Observation [7 minutes]

Some research questions can only really be studied by sociologists getting out of their offices and interacting directly with the people they want to study. Starting with the famous Chicago School of sociology, this film looks at some classic studies to illustrate why participation observation is used in sociology, its major strengths and limitations and its contribution to sociological understanding.

Elitist Britain 2019: The educational backgrounds of Britain’s leading people

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019
Summary Report: Click to downlaod
Summary Report

This latest report from the Sutton Trust looks at the various educational pathways taken by Britain’s elites “from the type of school they attended to where they went to university” to paint a picture of educational and economic inequality across our society.

The Summary version of the Report (there’s also a full version you can download if you want a bit more depth and detail) contains a wealth of useful statistical data, plus a bit of commentary that provides some basic, but still interesting, interpretation. There is also a 1-page summary of the policy recommendations to come out of the Report if you or your students are particularly interested.

Otherwise, the Summary is neatly divided into two useful sections:

Firstly, a short Overview has some general observations about “a country whose power structures are dominated by a narrow section of the population” backed-up with some facts and figures about Independent Schools, Oxbridge and the occupations with the highest and lowest percentage of students from these sources.

Secondly, a much longer section that links various sections of society and economy (Politics, Business, Media…) to Independent School and Oxbridge representation. The format here, again, is a short introductory commentary coupled with a page or so of statistical data.

Overall the Summary Report is something students and teachers alike should find informative and accessible, with a range of applications across different parts of the Specification.

Sociological Research Methods DVD

Monday, July 1st, 2019

Our first sociological research methods DVD features 3 short films whose aim is not simply to tell students about sociological methods, but to show their strengths and limitations in action by looking at how these methods have been applied in key sociological studies. The DVD features:

Interviews and Questionnaires [7 minutes]

How do school students negotiate the pressures to perform well academically alongside the pressure to popular and cool? Carolyn Jackson combined questionnaires and interviews to research this question and this film uses her study, Lads and Ladettes, to illustrate why these methods are chosen, their respective strengths and limitations and how the strengths of one can be used to offset the limitations of the other. (more…)