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GCSE Sociology: Debate Kits

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

One of the Good Things about Teaching (and, indeed, Learning) Sociology is that it offers up plentiful opportunities for classroom discussion in ways that can be a hugely-beneficial teaching and learning experience.

A main downside to building discussions into your lesson plan is, of course, that without a strong structure designed to get students to think about different viewpoints and draw appropriate conclusions, discussion can rapidly dissolve into a distracted mess of competing opinions on and around everything but the question at hand.

There are, as you might expect, a shed-load of practices and strategies available to anyone interested in ways of developing structured discussions, both in the offline and online classroom, but if you’re of the opinion there’s always room for different ways of doing things you might want to consider the Science Debate Kits aimed at KS3 and 4 students (14 – 16 year olds in the UK).

Although the blurb around the kits refers to them as a STEM resource, the basic underpinning principle – students take-on a range of structured roles for the purposes of discussion – is one that’s easily-adapted to something like GCSE Sociology or Psychology.

So while many of the prepared Kits (debates around Food Hygiene, Space Travel and IVF) are broadly aimed at KS3 and 4 Science a number have a more-general audience that could be used as is in GCSE Sociology. This includes debates around areas like Unisex Toilets, Drug legalisation / Decriminalisation and Big Data. In this respect each pre-constructed Kit provides:

  • General instructions about the debate.
  • Facilitation tips
  • Brief Learning Notes (covering the Lesson Objectives, Outcomes and Curriculum Outcomes beloved of SMT and OfSted)
  • Teacher Notes covering a more-detailed Lesson Plan, Background Notes and Suggested Homework.
  • A set of Character (role-playing) cards containing details of the character being played by each student in the debate.
  • While these ready-made Kits are undoubtedly useful as both a time-saver and pointer as to how the debate can be structured, many KS4 Sociology teachers are likely to find the Blank Debate  Template Kits more-useful. This will be particularly the case if you want to explore issues that aren’t covered in the existing Kits or if you want to adapt existing Kits to a more-sociological orientation for your students.

    Either way the Kits (and the associated website) could prove to be a valuable resource that’s well-worth exploring if you’re looking for ways to introduce debates with a clear narrative flow into your classroom.

    In addition, although the Kits are designed for 14 – 16 year olds there’s probably nothing to stop you adapting the broad principles involved to higher-level discussions post-16. You could, for example, try combining the Trial-by-Jury discussion format with the Science Kit role-playing format to create a very-interesting (or not, as the fancy takes you) discussion hybrid.

    And you don’t get more sociological than that.

    AQA GCSE Sociology: Core studies

    Tuesday, April 5th, 2022

    The AQA GCSE Sociology Specification helpfully lists 25 “Core Studies” that it describes as:

    A list of readily available classic and seminal texts that will help introduce students to sociology, stimulate their ‘sociological imagination’ and develop their ability to compare and contrast different sociological perspectives”.

    And while the Spec. is careful to point-out that “These are not the only texts that can be studied”, they’re probably a good starting-point.

    A wink, after all, is as good as a nod to a blind horse.

    However, while these texts may or may not be considered “seminal”, I’d probably take issue with a couple pf things:

    1. The claim they’re “readily available”, unless by “readily” you mean “In a University library somewhere. Possibly. But don’t quote me”. I searched online for Parsons “The Social Structure of the Family” for example, and aside from a short Tutor2u overview I could find absolutely nothing available.

    Not even on Amazon.

    2. Even if you were fortunate enough to find copies of the 25(!) texts, I’m not sure they’d do you much good. There’s no way on earth a teacher, let alone a GCSE student, is going to want to wade through the original texts of people like Parsons, Durkheim, Marx, Oakley, Bowles and Gintis…

    Obviously, I hear you say, you’re not supposed to take the AQA Spec. literally. What’s really required is a “Just the Facts” approach to these texts.

    To which I’d respond that you’re absolutely right.

    But I’d also add that it would be very useful if someone (not me) had anticipated all the potential problems and produced a document containing one-page summaries of all the key points GCSE students are likely to need for each text.

    I’m not sure where you’d find such a document, but I’m betting it would be really useful if you could.

    New GCSE Sociology Knowledge Organisers

    Saturday, October 23rd, 2021

    Following from a safe distance the recent batches of A-level Knowledge Organisers (A Few More A-level Sociology Knowledge Organisers and Even More Sociology A-Level Organisers) comes something similar for GCSE. These are largely for AQA but there are a couple of sets aimed specifically at WJEC/Eduqas.

    Chase Terrace Academy: Although I’ve previously posted Organisers for Crime and Deviance, Families and Methods, this set seems to have been revamped and rebranded.

    Sociological Approaches and Methods

    Families and Households

    Crime and Deviance

    Social Stratification

    The Highfield School

    What Is Sociology?: Indeed.

    Hugh Christie School

    GCSE Sociology Knowledge Organiser: A beautifully-crafted booklet created by Daryl Taylor for the Eduqas Specification that covers Key Sociological Concepts, Processes of Cultural Transmission, Social Change in the UK, Research Methods and Families.

    WJEC/Edugas Exam Board: Organisers created and distributed by the Board.

    Applied methods of sociology enquiry

    Crime and deviance

    Social differentiation and stratification: theories

    Social differentiation and stratification: equality/inequality and factors that may influence access to life chances and power

    Social differentiation and stratification: poverty as a social issue

    Theories of education

    Key sociological concepts and processes of cultural transmission

    Sociological research methods

    Types of families and family diversity

    (more…)

    GCSE Subject Choices: Class, Gender and Ethnicity

    Saturday, October 2nd, 2021

    In an English context, most research into subject choice tends to focus on both post-compulsory education and gender for reasons that should be readily apparent:

    Firstly, post-16 (A-level) education tends to offer a wider and largely-unrestricted set of choices about which subjects to study, so student choice is much easier for researchers to identify and track.

    Secondly, gender is a relatively easy (biological) category to track and doesn’t present the same kinds of classification and measurement problems as categories such as class.

    While such as focus is both understandable and helpful, recent research by Henderson et al (2016) provides a useful addition to the literature by looking at the choices made by students at GCSE (post-14) level in terms of categories such as social class, gender, ethnicity, parental education and income.

    While it’s probably fair to say the research reveals no great surprises in terms of the relationship between class, ethnicity, gender and subject choice, it does add a further layer to our understanding of general processes involved in subject choices.

    Methodologically, the research involved:

  • Identifying patterns of GCSE subjects chosen by a cohort of young people born in 1989/1990.
  • Drawing data from “a longitudinal survey of these students linked to data on their academic attainment”.
  • Respondents selected using a stratified random sample.
  • The main objective of the study was to see whether differences in subject choice, excluding the compulsory subjects of Maths and English, “simply reflect differences in prior attainment or whether they actually operate above and beyond existing inequalities”.

    In other words the researchers wanted to see if GCSE subject choices were based on prior levels of achievement – students taking subjects at GCSE they liked and / or were good at – or if factors such as class, gender and ethnicity played a part in these choices.

    (more…)

    GCSE Sociology Knowledge Organisers

    Friday, February 5th, 2021

    Over the past couple of years I’ve posted a whole load of Sociology Knowledge Organisers (or Learning Tables as they’re sometimes known) and they continue – along with their Psychology counterparts – to be some of the most-popular posts on the site.

    Which must mean something.

    The last batch, however, seems to have been posted nearly 2 years ago, which means I either lost interest or, more-probably, exhausted the supply.

    In either case – and they’re probably not mutually-exclusive – you’ll be glad to know that while I was at a loose-end I decided to have a look around to see if there was anything new available and was pleasantly surprised to find there was.

    It seems schools and colleges have been busy encouraging teachers to create Knowledge Organisers like they were going out of fashion (although, by the time I get around to posting this, they probably will have).

    While there’s probably a sociological debate to be had about this, this is not the place and I’m not the person to initiate it. So, whatever your particular take on the question of Knowledge Organisers – as “just-another-tool in the teacher’s toolkit” to “a management tool that will revolutionise learning” – you can rest-assured that all you’re going to get here are a load of links to a variety of different types of Organiser.

    The twist, this time, is that these are all for GCSE Sociology (AQA mostly) because, unless I’m very much mistaken (unlikely I know) I haven’t previously posted any Organisers for this level…

    Click to see the Organisers

    GCSE Sociology Freebies

    Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

    The Sociology Support web site has some new and interesting freebies available for GCSE Sociology, the first of which is the Spec Check Pack.

    This consists of neat, one-page, summaries of the AQA Specification content (including an indication of Key Studies) that students (and teachers…) should find useful for both tracking progress through the course and for revision.

    The Pack has four pdf documents covering Social Stratification, Education, Family and Deviance.

    It might also be worth your while picking-up their free “Introducing Structural Theories” resource, again for AQA GCSE, that’s described as:

    A lesson for GCSE Sociology students introducing the main principles of structural perspectives”.

    This can be downloaded as both a PowerPoint Presentation and pdf file.

    GCSE and A-level Sociology Podcasts

    Thursday, June 18th, 2020

    Audiopi are currently offering teachers and students free access to their GCSE and A-level podcasts until 1st October 2020.

    After that it will cost around £8 per month for students if you want to continue to listen or £150 per year for institutions (other options may be available but I couldn’t be bothered to explore them).

    If you don’t want to sign-up for the free trial right away there are a few sample podcasts available and the couple I’ve listened to are professionally-produced, interesting and informative.

    Although I wouldn’t want the more-enterprising (or cash-strapped) among you to get the wrong idea but it seems that you can download each podcast as an mp3 file during your “free trial”…

    As well as Sociology you – or your colleagues – might also be interested in the Religious Studies and Psychology podcasts.

    These are equally free for the next 3 months.

    More GCSE Sociology PLC’s

    Monday, January 27th, 2020
    Eduqas SORT PLC

    Following from the original GCSE Sociology Personal Learning Checklist post I’ve found a few more PLC’s for different exam boards. These are a combination of teacher-created PLCs and what appear to be some professionally-created efforts.

    Most follow the familiar “RAG” (Red, Amber, Green) format, or simple variations thereof, but I’ve included a few for the Eduqas Board based around SORT criteria. This is a more-involved technique based around students indicating whether or not information has been:

    Summarised Organised (using RAG technique) Recalled and Tested.

    Introductory

    Key Concepts (SORT)

    Education SORT

    Crime and Deviance SORT

    Family SORT

    Methods SORT

    Inequality SORT

    Update

    I’ve recently discovered this 2021 GCSE “Tick List” – a fairly-basic Personal Learning type Checklist – for the WJEC / Edugas Specification. It’s an “either / or” list (either you know it or you don’t) but if you wanted to turn it into something more functional it might be a helpful starting-point.

    Personal Learning Checklists: GCSE Sociology

    Tuesday, January 14th, 2020
    Family PLC

    Although I’ve previously posted about Personal Learning Checklists (PLCs) this was in the context of providing both a general explanation of how they are broadly designed to work and a basic template you could use to create PLCs for whatever course you happened to be teaching.

    In basic terms, PLCs can be useful for teachers and students in a couple of ways:

    Firstly, by identifying everything a student potentially needs to learn on a course and for an exam. This has an obvious use in terms of revision because it ensures students revise what they need to revise. It can also be useful during a course if a student, for whatever reason, has patch attendance. The creation of a PLC can be used, for example, to ensure they cover work they have missed.

    Secondly, they can be used by teachers to provide additional help for individual students who may not have clearly understood some part of the course.

    If you want to explore how PLCs can be used as an integral part of a “raising standards” agenda, this short article, Interventions: Personalised learning checklists, could be a useful starting-point.

    If, on the other hand, you’re only here for the gear, Blenheim School have very kindly created a whole bunch of GCSE Sociology PLCs so you don’t have to (and if you teach other GCSE subjects there are a whole host of other PLCs available you might want to check-out). This bunch are for the AQA Specification (I think) but if you follow other Specifications they’re easy enough to adapt to your own particular needs.

    Crime and Deviance PLC

    What is Sociology?

    Research Methods

    Family

    Education

    Crime and Deviance

    Mass Media

    Social Inequality

    Update

    I’ve since posted a few more GCSE PLCs on a variety of topics (Family, Education, Media etc.) that you can find here if you want them.

    GCSE Sociology Resources

    Monday, January 13th, 2020
    Culture and Socialisation Study Guide
    Study Guide

    Although iGCSE Sociology is a different exam to the conventional GCSE Sociology studied in the majority of English schools, the Specification content is very similar for both in terms of the general areas studied (Inequality, Family, Methods and so forth) and the specific content studied within each area.

    This, as you may be starting to suspect, is quite convenient given that I’ve recently stumbled across a range of iGCSE Study Guides that GCSE teachers and students should find very useful.

    And free.

    Never neglect the value of free.

    Study Guides

    Culture and Socialisation

    Research Methods

    Family

    Stratification and Inequality

    Podcasts With Pictures | GCSE

    Monday, May 20th, 2019

    I’ve been meaning to do a post on the growing number of teachers creating video resources for some time and now I’ve finally managed to drag myself away from Far Cry 5 make a bit of time I thought I’d start with a set of GCSE resources from MTO Sociology aimed at the AQA Specification. When I get around to it I’ll do a follow-up post on A-level video resources of which, you might not be surprised to learn, there are many more available.

    Anyway, at the time of writing the MTO Sociology YouTube Channel has 15 or so Sociology resources divided into 4 main playlists:

    Exam Ready takes you through all the information you need to cover in terms of revision in areas like Methods, Family, Education, Deviance and Stratification. These films are 30 – 60 minutes long.

    Themes focuses on concepts (socialisation, gender, class and ethnicity) that crop-up right across the sociology specification and the podcasts focus on how to apply your knowledge of these themes to questions in different areas (such as family or education). These resources are much shorter – between 10 and 20 minutes – to reflect their tighter focus.

    Perspectives provides a brief introduction to Functionalism, Marxism and Feminism and how these perspectives can be applied across different areas of the Specification. Again, these are relatively short films that come-in around the 10-minute mark.

    Questions and Answers seems to be a bit of a pot-luck resource based on whatever MTO Sociology’s students requested. If you’re having problems understanding concepts like the glass ceiling, for example, this resource will be helpful. If you’re not, it probably won’t. Which isn’t a criticism, more a heads-up. The films in this section are around the 15-minute mark.

    Finally, there are a couple more Sociology resources tucked away on the GCSE Humanities playlist that are worth checking-out: How do I answer exam questions? and Model answers and exam feedback.

    GCSE Sociology Guides: Family and Education

    Friday, August 17th, 2018

    GCSE Sociology resources tend to be a little thin on the ground, so it’s always nice to come across decent teacher-created material such as these two bang-up-to-the-moment Revision Guides created by Kate Henney.

    The Family Guide is a 25-page document that packs in a whole range of resources covering family types, diversity, alternatives, perspectives, roles and structures (plus some stuff on exam questions and a knowledge organiser…).

    The Education Pack Is a 20-page resource covering perspectives, types of school, class, ethnicity and gender, factors in achievement, marketisation and educational policy (plus exam questions and a knowledge organiser).

    Although the resources are in PowerPoint format it’s easy enough to save each file as a pdf document using the Export function if you want to give your students copies.

    Three More GCSE Sociology Revision Guides

    Saturday, May 12th, 2018

    These revision guides were created for the WJEC exam board so if you don’t follow this Specification you need to be careful about the areas that might be included in your Specification that are not covered in these guides.

    And vice versa, of course. There’s not a great deal of point revising material from these guides if it doesn’t appear on the Specification you’re following. Even though education – like travel – may well broaden the mind, if you’re looking around the Internet for a GCSE sociology revision guide there’s a fair bet you’re not actually looking to do a great deal more than you actually have to…

    Keeping this very important caveat in mind, these resources hail from Corby Technical School and while there’s no named author they are dated 2017. This, somewhat unusually, makes them bang up-to-date at the time of posting.

    Even if you don’t teach WJEC there’s plenty of information here that you’ll probably find useful, whatever GCSE Specification you follow:

    Crime and deviance
    Family Life
    Society and the Individual

    More GCSE Sociology Revision Stuff

    Sunday, March 4th, 2018

    While it’s possible to put-together a very reasonable – and reasonably comprehensive – set of revision resources from stuff that teachers have put on the web, there are a couple of things you should do before committing yourself to using these materials:

    1. Check they are for your Specification – you don’t want to be revising the wrong Spec.

    2. Check the Specification year / series to which they refer, particularly if it’s changed recently (over the past year or so). In other words, check the resources cover the newer required material and exclude older, newly-irrelevant material, from your revision.

    Guides

    These comprehensive resources combine things like notes, activities and advice and generally cover a number of different areas of the GCSE Specification. Three I’ve found are worth a look:

    1. Whole Course Revision 2018: This is a serious, 100-page, GCSE Revision Guide, put together by Ian Goddard, that covers:

    • Introducing Sociology
    • Research Methods
    • Family
    • Education
    • Crime and Deviance
    • Social Inequality
    • Power and Politics

    Unlike a lot of the previous GCSE resources I’ve posted [link] this is primarily a revision schedule rather than a simple list of revision notes (although these are also included). In this respect the Guide covers:

    • How to revise
    • Revision schedule
    • Personal Learning Checklist [link]
    • Basic study notes to supplement other reading (the Guide refers to “Collins Revision GCSE Sociology” but if you don’t use this text substituting your usual textbook will be fine)
    • Keywords
    • How to answer questions
    • Past question practice

    2. Sociology Revision Guide: Although not as ambitious or comprehensive as the above – the focus is on key terms and Notes covering Methods, Family and Education, plus a short section in exam advice – this Guide by Debbie McGowan is nicely designed and makes a welcome addition to your revision armoury. Presupposing you have one. If not, you can start one with this.

    3. Revision Guide for Students: A nicely-designed and cleanly laid-out hyperlinked pdf by Jonathan Tridgell that covers:

    • Research Methods
    • Socialisation, Culture and Identity
    • Family
    • Education
    • Mass Media

    While the focus is on brief revision notes the Guide also includes information on:

    • Course structure
    • Exam technique
    • Revision Tips.

    (more…)

    GCSE Revision Booklets

    Friday, March 2nd, 2018

    As with A-level Sociology, I’ve previously posted some links to GCSE Revision Guides and Resources over the past year or so, since when I seem to have picked-up a whole slew of guides and resources that I though it would be good to post.

    So here’s the first batch of 10. They’re all in pdf format and I can take no credit (nor indeed blame) for the style and content – it’s a bit of a Curate’s Egg I’m afraid – but there’s something useful in all of them:

    Sociology Revision Guide: Mainly brief Notes covering the Inequalities in Society Options, but with a useful section at the end where “Sample GCSE Essays” are analysed and annotated.

    General Revision Guide: similar to the above but covering culture, socialisation, research methods and family (the latter ahs much more extensive Notes). Again, there’s a very useful section at the end where “Sample GCSE Essays” are analysed and annotated.

    GCSE Revision Guide: Social Stratification, Research Methods, Crime and Deviance, Power and Politics (James Pearson): A set of short Notes on these topics.

    Unit B671 Investigating Society Revision Sheet: less a “revision sheet” and more a comprehensive set of Notes for this Unit – Research Methods, Culture, Identity and Socialisation.

    Unit B672 Crime and Deviance Revision Sheet: as above but for all aspects of Deviance.

    Unit B672 Family Revision Sheet: And the same for the sociology of family life.

    Unit 2: Social Inequality, Crime and Deviance, Mass Media (Michael Ellison): some very basic notes.

    Mass Media Revision Guide: Lots of Notes covering all aspects of this topic.

    GCSE Education Revision (James Pearson): This is a “Revision Activity Booklet” for Education that combines Notes with short exercises and all manner of exam advice.

    Unit 2: Crime and Deviance Revision Activities: A whole booklet full of revision activities.

    GCSE Psychology Notes

    Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

    As with its sociological counterpart, this is a set of short, to-the-point, GCSE Notes covering a range of topics:

    • Aggression
    • Development of Personality
    • Learning Memory
    • Non-Verbal Communication
    • Research Methods
    • Sex and gender
    • Social Influence
    • Stereotypes

    Each of the main sections is sub-divided into shorter categories: research methods, for example, covers:

  • Hypotheses and Experimental Designs
  • Standardised Procedures & Instructions
  • Ecological Validity & Sampling Methods
  • Making Sense of Data & Anomalous Results
  • Survey Methods & Ethical Considerations
  • Case Studies & Observation Studies
  • As with the Sociology Notes these aren’t something that will replace whatever textbooks you use, but it’s a handy resource that will complement your existing resources – even though the site hasn’t been updated for a good few years and bits were never completed…

    GCSE Sociology Notes

    Friday, December 1st, 2017

    Although this site describes itself as the UK’s “leading educational website for GCSE and A-level” it’s a bold claim that doesn’t really stand-up to even a cursory inspection: it looks unfinished – blank sections, loads of placeholder ”awaiting image” graphics, a deleted Facebook page and various feeds (Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin) that default to a different company…

    However, if you and your students can live with this you’ll find a range of Notes here that are relatively short, to-the-point and cover a number of different Specification areas and topics:

    • Introduction to Sociology
    • Families
    • Education
    • Media
    • Power
    • Social Inequality
    • Crime and Deviance
    • Sampling techniques

    Each of the main sections is sub-divided into shorter categories: crime and deviance, for example,

  • The Difference Between Crime and Deviance
  • Formal and Informal Forms of Social Control
  • How is Crime Studied?
  • What further explanations of criminal behaviour are there? What is the Impact of Crime and Deviance on Society?
  • Official Crime Statistics and Public Debates on Law & Order
  • The Social Distribution of Crime
  • While these aren’t going to replace whatever textbook you use, they might serve as a helpful complement…

    GCSE Psychology: Revision Booklet

    Friday, August 11th, 2017

    The final offering in this short GCSE Psychology series is a revision booklet by R Cummins of Knowsley College that covers both

    Unit 1: Making sense of other people (Memory, Non-verbal communication, Development of personality, Stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination and Research methods). 

    Unit 2: Understanding other people (Learning, Social influence, Sex and Gender, Aggression, and Research methods)

    The emphasis, as you might expect, is very much on revision and the booklet takes a no-frills approach to the topic through a combination of: 

  • Checklists
  • Notes and
  • Practice exam questions.

  • It’s not the most visually-dynamic offering, but it does the job it sets out to do…

    GCSE Psychology: Unit 2

    Thursday, August 10th, 2017

    Having posted stuff for AQA Psychology Unit 1 it’s probably only fair to do the same for Unit 2 so today’s post focuses on two offerings

    1. Understanding Other People: This resource, created by T Mitchell, consists of information and activities – plus a few revision tips – focused on various aspects of Conditioning. There’s one specific reference to a textbook that you may have to change if you don’t use the featured textbook.

    2. Unit 2 Revision Booklet: Although this offering from Caroline Thomas-Smith covers some of the same ground as the previous booklet, it contains much more besides (from social learning theory through aggression to research methods) and has a much greater focus on revision. It does, however, contain a few activities and an extensive range of exam questions.

    GCSE Psychology: Unit 1

    Sunday, July 30th, 2017

    Having spent the past few weeks furiously editing videos we’re licensing to a couple of British and American publishers, one of the joys of having a bit of spare time is the opportunity for a random-trawl through my hard drives looking for stuff that “might be useful to someone, sometime”.

    The stuff I’ve selected today is a little niche – and you don’t get more niche than GCSE Psychology, unless you count GCSE Sociology, in which case it’s not quite as niche as I might have initially lead you to believe, but still quite niche. Probably. 

    Anyway, since some helpful teachers have taken the time, trouble and effort to create it the least I could reasonably do is post it. You can thank me later.

    Today’s offerings, therefore, are focused around AQA Psychology Unit 1 (Making Sense of Other People) and include: 

    1.     A Revision Booklet covering Memory, Stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination, Non-verbal communication, Personality, and Research Methods. This booklet was created by Caroline Thomas-Smith and the approach adopted here is one of testing student recall rather than trying to provide a comprehensive revision document.

    2.   Personality Key Studies and Key Words created by Kevin White takes a more-conventional approach to revision with this extensive bundle of condensed course notes covering, as you might have been lead to expect, key studies and words. 

    3.     Unlike the previous two offerings, this Personality-focused resource created by T Mitchell is more of a course workbook than revision guide. Although it offers a few revision and exam tips its main focus is on individual classroom activities. The resource makes reference to a couple of specific texts so if you don’t use those texts you will need to substitute your own.

    GCSE SociologyStuff: Roll-it To Recap

    Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

    If, like me, you’re a fan of games and simulations you might find this simple Sociology game from Steve Bishop worth a look.

    While some games, such as the Sociology and Psychology Connecting Walls are best played on-line, this is more a pen-and-sticky-notes effort – a simple classroom activity that’s guaranteed to provide hours of fun, frivolity and furious arguments. Possibly.

    While the rules are rudimentary (“Roll the dice!”. “Answer the question!”) the upside to this is that you can adapt it to your own specific classroom requirements and objectives.

    This particular example is aimed at GCSE Sociology but it’s the kind of thing that could be easily adapted to A-level Sociology (or indeed GCSE / A-level Psychology) presupposing you’ve got the time and energy to create different game boards for different areas of the Spec.

    GCSE Psychology Connecting Walls

    Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

    If you’re looking for something a little different to encourage your GCSE students to revise, his collection of Psychology Connecting Walls might be just the ticket.  

    The basic mechanics of the quiz are very simple: each wall has 16 elements that can be grouped into 4 different categories. Once all 4 categories have been correctly identified students then need to say what connects each category. If you’re not familiar with the TV Show (Only Connect) on which the quizzes are based you can watch a short introductory video that demonstrates the game mechanics.

    There are 19 Connecting Walls in this collection, although because they are randomised some categories will be repeated across different walls. 

    There’s no indication as to who created these Walls but if you know, let me know and I can credit them accordingly…

     

    GCSE Revision Resources

    Thursday, November 24th, 2016

    While it’s probably fair to say that teacher-created GCSE revision resources are a bit thin on the ground (and take a bit of finding), there are useful resources “out there” if you’re prepared to do a lot of searching. To save you the time and trouble, here’s some I found earlier (the quality’s a bit variable, but needs must etc.):

    gcsemedia

    Unit 1 Revision Guide

    Unit 1: Education

    Unit 2 Topics – keywords / concepts

    Crime and Deviance

    Mass Media Revision Booklet

    Unit B671 (Sociology Basics) Revision: Methods / Culture / Socialisation / Identity

     

     

    Sociology: No. 5 with a Bullet…

    Monday, July 11th, 2022

    We’ve been doing a bit of research on the rising popularity of Criminology, mainly it has to be said in Wales (the popularity, not the research) and speculating about why no English exam board currently offers the subject at a-level (WJEC currently offer an a-level equivalent Diploma that’s recognised by UCAS, but it’s mainly only offered by 6th Form / FE College Colleges).

    My view, for what it’s worth (not much, actually) is that school’s would struggle to staff it at a-level because of it’s combination of sociology and law – two standalone subjects that have historically struggled for staffing in English schools. There’s also an argument that one of the major English Boards decided against creating a Specification a few years back it in case it detracted from their increasingly-lucrative Sociology Spec.

    And that tenuous link brings me to the main point of this post, the increasing popularity of Sociology – and Psychology – at a-level.

    While Psychology has steadily worked it’s way to the top of the Popularity League Table (something that sort-of exists but which isn’t really A Thing. Yet) over the past 25 years, Sociology has always been a bit of a poor relation bobbing around the lower reaches of the Top 10: popular with The Kids, but not that popular…

    The latest iteration of the post-pandemic table, however, shows a couple of significant things:

    1. Both Psychology (+11.6%) and Sociology (+9.5%) have markedly increased in popularity over the past couple of years.

    2. While Psychology is the second most popular a-level subject after Mathematics (which it seems to be steadily catching), Sociology is now the fifth most popular a-level, a little way behind Chemistry and moving ahead of subjects like Business Studies, History, Geography and English Literature.

    Considering it’s not one of the so-called STEM subjects increasingly foisted on the school population by an increasingly out-of-touch Education Department and is not extensively taught further down schools at GCSE, this is, IMHO, quite a remarkable achievement.

    Not least on the part of those Sociology teachers who, with limited budgets, resources and support have managed to make Sociology an increasingly important post-16 option for their students.

    Another Transition Pack

    Wednesday, June 8th, 2022
    A Page from The Pack

    As the final term of the school / college year winds softly to its close, the collective thoughts of Senior Management inevitably turn towards those long, empty, weeks of the summer holiday and how they can be filled.

    Mainly, it should be said, by teachers.

    Because, just as rust never sleeps, neither does SM and one of the latest ways they’ve devised to keep you occupied, out of mischief and with your nose firmly to the grindstone is Transition Materials.

    Or, as they’re sometimes known, “bridging tasks”. A set of materials students complete over the summer hols as either preparation for A1, if they’re transitioning from GCSE, or A2 if they’re transitioning from their first year of A-level.

    And while it would be nice to think that these things magically write themselves, we both know that’s not the case.

    As loyal supporters of this blog will further know – because as loyal supporters they will have read every single word of every single post I’ve ever written – I’ve previously posted both Sociology Transition Materials and Psychology Transition Materials.

    It is, after all, what I do when I’m not doing the other stuff that I do.

    So, you may or may not be thinking (I like to hedge my bets in order to preserve the mystique), “Why do I need yet another set of GCSE-to-A-level Transition Materials when I could spend most of my precious summer holidays creating my own?”.

    And when you stop to think about it. There’s your answer.

    This set of materials, lovingly crafted by some nameless teachers from King Charles School (and Sixth Form Centre), probably has way-too-much stuff in it for any sane individual to contemplate using in its entirety (it consists of 52 pages. I’ve written books that are smaller…), but there’s plenty here that can be usefully adapted to save a lot of time, effort and tears.

    Although it’s designed for the AQA Specification there’s little here that wouldn’t be equally-applicable to other Specs, so you’re probably free to lift as much – or as little – as you think necessary. And while there are a few “suggested readings” from the Webb et. al. textbook in the pack (I’m not going to link to it because, honestly, Rob Webb doesn’t need the money), scans of these are helpfully provided (although you didn’t hear it from me).

    Finally, the materials have one very interesting and (possibly) unique feature that caught my eye and could well be worth half-inching:

    “What kind of Sociologist will you be?” is a short multiple-choice quiz whose answers reveal the type of sociologist you are likely to turn out to be (feminist, functionalist, marxist, interactionist or postmodernist).

    Allegedly.

    Anyway, to sum it up, this is a pack of materials you could usefully dip into and out of to select bits-and-bobs to serve up to your students to keep them out of trouble over the long summer days and, indeed, nights.

    Ask A Psychologist

    Saturday, April 16th, 2022

    In addition to offering free KS3 and 4 Debate Kits the “I’m A Scientist” web site also features a dedicated Psychology Zone, funded by The British Psychological Society, (other Zones – Health, Helium and Molecule – are available should you be interested), the main purpose of which is to enable students to participate in short question-and-answer sessions with real, live, psychologists.

    Each session lasts a maximum of 40-minutes and has to be booked in advance through the web site. This is free for schools, presumably because the Zones are sponsored. The one drawback here is that each Zone is only available at specific times during the year, with the next Psychology Zone scheduled for June 2022.

    The session includes some suggested Lesson Plans that help teachers and students understand the general process and all Chat is moderated by the site. Only students registered with your class can participate in each Chat session and a transcript of all the questions asked – and their answers – is available for download at the end of the session.

    Real. Live. Psychologists.

    While the Zone is up-and-running, which typically seems to be for about a month at a time, your students can submit follow-up questions through the site, participate in any after-school Chats that have been arranged (these are open to all participating students, not just the ones in your class, but they are fully-moderated) and vote for their Scientist of the Week (who can win a £500 prize – presumably for being the most-helpful / charming / amusing – I’m not sure, really).

    Finally, at the end of the Zone run the student who asked the best question wins a gift voucher. How this works I have no idea but it’s probably worth it if you win.

    Revision Tools: Personal Learning Checklists

    Tuesday, March 29th, 2022
    Personal Learning Checklist

    Personal Learning Checklists (PLCs) are a useful revision tool for both students and teachers because they allow both to identify areas of strength and weakness in an overall revision strategy: students, for example, have a list of everything they’re expected to know by way of preparation for their exams and teachers can identify any areas students feel they need additional help with in the weeks leading-up to the exams.

    Revision help can, in this respect, be precisely targeted to individual students – some of whom need it and some of whom don’t – rather than broadly aimed at everyone.

    Basically, they’re a win-win situation for all involved.

    The downside to all this general positivity is that if students don’t create their PLC as they go along, it means being faced with a huge amount of work to do at the end of the course. Time that’s normally spent revising (or “staring blankly at some notes for a few weeks” as it’s sometimes sadly known).

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    Video Mentoring

    Thursday, March 24th, 2022

    Sociology, as you probably know, is consistently one of the most popular A-level subjects even though it’s competing for student time with subjects that are, with a couple of exceptions like Psychology and Business Studies, taught throughout secondary schooling.

    However you choose to frame the success of Sociology in attracting students, one of its more troubling aspects is that it’s driven by a substantial body of teachers who find themselves – particularly in the school sector – as Doo’ers and / or SaSSies.

    Doo’ers are those who teach Sociology in a “Department of One”, while SaSSies teach “Sociology as Second Subject” – a catchall category that includes, at one extreme, teachers who hold a degree in a subject that has some overlap with Sociology, such as Psychology or Geography, and at the other those having to pick-up A-level Sociology from scratch.

    Sometimes, of course, SaSSies are also Doo’ers (and vice versa). And ss someone who’s experienced “Second Subject Syndrome” I can honestly say it can be a pretty stressful experience.

    Although the conditions that have combined to create these – and similar – situations are unlikely to disappear any time soon, this doesn’t mean nothing can be done to help Sociology teachers who find themselves needing assistance: from the simple reassurance that “you’re doing things right” to more-extensive help with things like planning, resourcing and teaching.

    This is where the concept of Video Mentoring comes into play.

    If we leave to one side the actual mechanics of online teaching, many teachers have probably found that actually setting-up and using video conferencing software such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams isn’t particularly difficult or daunting. And the suggestion here is that once enough are familiar with its use, it can play an important role in connecting teachers as a way of exchanging ideas, information and, if necessary, reassurance.

    Some of you will already be familiar with things like online TeachMeets and Video Mentoring simply extends and solidifies this basic idea: established and experienced Sociology teachers lend their expertise to those who might be struggling to run a Department of One or who may need help and guidance in teaching a subject that may be neither familiar nor easy to grasp.

    How?

    In terms of nuts-and-bolts, Video Mentoring is extremely simple using something like Zoom. It might, for example, involve an experienced teacher volunteering to meet virtually with a group of inexperienced teachers once a month, every couple of months or whatever suits the participants best. The general objective would be for an experienced teacher to provide support for their inexperienced peers, although the precise nature of that support is something a group would have to decide among themselves. It might, for example, involve help and guidance with dealing with exam boards, how to set and mark different types of homework and so forth. Additionally, the mentored group could develop into a forum for exchanging resources.

    Ideally each mentoring meetup would be relatively short – not even the most-dedicated and well-intentioned teacher wants to spend hours each month on mentoring – and evolve into a self-supporting group where the initial role of the Mentor would be gradually reduced.

    You may, at this point, be thinking this sounds all-well-and-good, but an obvious logistical problem with setting-up mentoring groups is how the potential group members make contact with one another?

    In an ideal world this might be something British Sociological Association would be able to organise (you could always suggest it to them…), but I’m not sure they have the resources (or, maybe, even the inclination). A more-viable way to set-up Video Mentoring Groups would be through existing Facebook groups – a simple forum where potential Mentors could volunteer for the role and be easily contacted by potential Mentees (not sure if that’s a word. But it is now).

    UK Facebook Groups for different Exam Boards: these are all private groups so you need to ask to join.

    AQA: Sociology Teachers

    OCR: Sociology A Level For OCR Specification

    Edugas: Eduqas sociology teachers

    WJEC: Sociology WJEC Eduqas/ Cymdeithaseg CBAC Teacher Network

    These, as you might appreciate, are just a few intitial, not particualrly well thought-through, ideas about how we could use video conferencing and mentoring to bring UK Sociology Teachers together in a supportive and inclusive way.

    I‘m hoping others may be able to develop – and maybe even realise – these ideas…

    Educational Achievement and Intelligence 2

    Wednesday, March 9th, 2022

    The previous post in this two-part examination of the relationship between educational achievement and intelligence focused on the questions “what is intelligence?” and how can we define it? Keeping in mind definitions of both intelligence and achievement may be socially constructed, this post looks at three broad explanations for their relationship: positive, negative and agnostic.

    agnostic

    This explanation argues we don’t know if there is a real relationship between intelligence and achievement for two reasons:

    Firstly, there is no generally-agreed definition of intelligence so we don’t know what is being measured.

    Secondly, even if we select a quantifiable subset of intelligence there is no great consensus over how it can be reliably and validly measured.

    Further problems arise if intelligence is conceptualised as a relationship – something fluid and dynamic created by individuals as they go about their lives and expressed in different ways and contexts – rather than as something people have; a quality that has a certain permanence. This position suggests intelligence is a capacity developed through cultural practices and ways of learning, rather than a set of abilities with which we are born. As Kaplan argues “Intelligence is difficult to define precisely, but we can all agree that it refers to intellectual ability as opposed to intellectual achievement”; people can, in other words, be intelligent without necessarily being able to demonstrate their intelligence by passing exams.

    positive

    This explanation argues we can assume IQ tests measure significant aspects of intelligence in the form of skills relating to various cognitive functions; these include the ability to solve mathematical problems or understand logical arguments. Since these skills are very similar to those valued in both education and the workplace it would make sense to test the relationship between intelligence and achievement in this way. From this position IQ clearly correlates positively with educational achievement:

    • Deary et al (2006), for example, found a 0.8 correlation (1 = a very strong, possibly causal. relationship and 0 = no relationship) between “Cognitive ability tests taken at 11 and national school examinations taken at 16″. Their main finding was “the large contribution of general mental ability to educational achievement“.

    • Mackintosh (2002) notes “Schoolchildren’s IQ scores correlate in the range 0.5 to 0.7 with their current and subsequent educational attainment: the correlation between 11-year-olds’ IQ scores and their GCSE grades at age 16 is over 0.5“.

    Although this evidence of a positive relationship is significant, the level of disagreement among researchers is a potential drawback; the difference between 0.5 and 0.8 is actually very large – and these two studies are talking about the same general group of UK pupils.

    In general this approach makes a positive connection between social selection on the basis of educational qualifications and intelligence. In America, for example, Murray and Herrnstein (1994) argue race is inextricably linked to different levels of intelligence (a continuum that roughly runs from black at the bottom, white in the middle to Asian at the top) and this explains why black Americans achieve less than their White or Asian peers.

    In the UK, Saunders (2002) argues intelligence, while not determined at birth, differs between social classes; social and developmental factors mean middle-class children are, on average, significantly more intelligent than their working-class peers. Social selection based on class differences in intelligence operates in two ways:

    Firstly, middle class parents in professional employment have demonstrated their higher levels of intelligence. They have achieved high employment status through competing against their working class peers and coming out on top.

    Secondly, the knowledge and experience parents gain through this social process gives their children a distinct competitive advantage, partly because the latter have more to lose by educational failure (downward social mobility) and partly because middle class parents instil in their children the importance of educational qualifications, since this is how they achieved their current social status.

    Saunders argues, therefore, that social selection, like its natural counterpart, ensures the most academically able rise to the top of the class structure. Intelligent working class children are educationally successful and rise into the middle class while middle class children who fail to capitalise on their social advantages fall back into the working class. Social selection ensures, therefore, that middle class children will, on average, always be more intelligent than working class children.

    negative

    Explanations here generally follow two lines of reasoning:

    Firstly, it would be very surprising if there was not a positive correlation between IQ test scores and educational achievement, mainly because the skills valued and taught in schools and tested in public examinations are those measured in IQ tests. The relationship, from this perspective, is a statistical artefact resulting from how something is measured; those who, at 11, are good at verbal reasoning or solving mathematical problems are highly likely to be similarly proficient at age 16.

    One way to test the validity of this argument is to look at achievement at the highest levels of the education system, where the skills required for success are substantially different; Petty (2011), for example, argues IQ tests such as the American SAT, the British 11+ and the Australian HSC “are very bad at predicting performance in university“.

    Secondly, educational achievement is not related to intelligence, per se; rather, it is related to a range of cultural factors inside and outside the education system that allow some pupils to achieve, while severely limiting the ability of others to do the same. This achievement is simply validated by higher measured levels of IQ. In other words, cultural factors relating to class, gender and ethnicity underpin and explain both higher IQ and achievement levels. As Goleman (1995) argues “The vast majority of one’s ultimate niche in society is determined by non-IQ factors, ranging from social class to luck“. From this perspective, therefore, the crucial explanatory relationship is between cultural learning and both measured achievement and intelligence.

    Petty argues that a defining feature of IQ tests is that they “reflect the social order” because “the people who make up the IQ tests are from the educated middle class. What they are saying to others who score high on IQ tests is “You must be intelligent, you think just like me”. The values that are reflected in IQ tests are those of the middle class“.

    Educational Achievement and Intelligence 1

    Tuesday, March 8th, 2022

    To understand how intelligence relates to educational achievement it needs to be defined; we need, in other words, to know what intelligence is before we can examine how it can be measured and subsequently related to different levels of achievement.

    what is intelligence?

    Although on the face of things intelligence might appear relatively easy to describe and demonstrate, Sternberg (1987) suggests that not only is it hugely difficult to define its meaning is also vigorously contested, in that “There seem to be almost as many definitions of intelligence as there are experts asked to define it”. For convenience, however, we can group these definitions into two broad categories:

    1. Capacities: This general categorisation of intelligence is based on the idea humans have certain faculties, aptitudes and competences that allow them to behave “more intelligently” than other animals. Sternberg’s (1986) triarchic theory, for example, argues intelligence has three related components:

    • Meta-components involve the capacity to solve problems and make informed, correct, decisions.

    • Performance components involve the ability to actually carry-out meta-component actions, such as seeing a relationship between two or more ideas.

    • Knowledge-acquisition components refer to the capacity to acquire new information and make logical choices between different options.

    Intelligence, in this respect, is defined in terms of the ability to use each capacity to process information and choose appropriate responses, depending on the particular situation.

    2. Abilities: This is a narrower definition, one that focuses on the ability to perform particular tasks or solve specific problems. Binet (1916), for example, the creator of one of the first tests to measure intelligence, defined it as “the capacity to judge, reason and comprehend well”. Jensen (1973) argues that while human intelligence is complex and difficult to precisely define, it is possible to test and quantify some important aspects of what he calls “general intelligence” or the “g” factor, a subset that relates to “abstract reasoning ability”. By focusing on abilities, therefore, it’s possible to develop tests that measure the extent to which individuals are able to do things like identify rules, patterns, reasons and logical principles in three particular areas:

    • Mathematical

    • Verbal or Comprehension

    • Spatial.

    While categories based on capacities or abilities recognise different dimensions to “intelligence” it is still something conceptualised in the singular – it’s something you have or you do not. Gardner (2003), however, has introduced a further layer of complication through his theory of multiple intelligences. This questions the assumption “intelligence is a single entity” passed between generations, with children inheriting their parents’ general intelligence.

    Gardner (1999) argues there are at least 7 distinct types of intelligence ranging from the conventional linguistic, mathematical and spatial abilities through musical intelligence to interpersonal IQ – the extent to which an individual can empathise with others. This latter form is sometimes called emotional intelligence and, as Ogundokun and Adeyemo’s (2010), study of Nigerian secondary school students found, it is possible to measure and quantify. They found, for example, a strong correlation between levels of emotional intelligence and academic achievement.

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    Anthecology: Lesson Study Journals

    Tuesday, October 19th, 2021

    My only previous exposure to teachers carrying-out research in their own school was Sandringham School’s Sandagogy site and the Sandringham Learning Journals therein.

    Here’s a clue…

    That was until I chanced upon the Samuel Whitbread Academy’s Anthecology (no, me neither) and while it may be entirely coincidental that both are Academies, I’m guessing it’s probably not. Which, if true, means there must be quite a few schools engaging in this kind of thing without any of it reaching the wider audience it deserves.

    This is a little ironic given that Anthecology involves the study of the relationship between plants and their pollinators (I was lying earlier), so I’m firmly of the opinion that it behoves me to take it upon myself to do what little I can to spread a little pollinating power by bringing these resources to a wider audience.

    That would be you, then.

    Lesson Study Journals

    While there’s a whole rationale surrounding the theory and practice of Study Journals you can read about if you’re so inclined, the Whitbread version is fairly basic and easily digested if you’re less inclined.

    In a nutshell it involves teachers doing some basic research in and around their own classrooms and subjects and sharing the outcome of that research with other teachers in the school.

    It’s probably more exciting than I’ve made it sound.

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    Hybrid Knowledge Organisers

    Monday, July 5th, 2021

    Knowledge Organisers (or Learning Tables if you prefer) have become something of a standard teaching and learning tool at both GCSE and A-level and while you may or may not find them helpful, one problem I’ve always found with them is the deceptively-simple one that they focus on knowledge.

    But one of the key things at both High School and A-level is that “knowing stuff”, while necessary, is not sufficient. An important dimension to study at this level is what students are able to do with what they know, in terms of things like applying knowledge to sociological questions, the ability to use some forms of knowledge to criticise others, to draw conclusions from their applications and criticisms and so forth.

    Hybrid Organiser Template

    A potential weakness of knowledge organisers, therefore, is that they have a tendency to encourage students to see “knowledge” as the most important element of study at this level; as long as you “know the right stuff” everything will be okay – a mindset that can difficult for teachers to dislodge.

    In thinking about how to resolve this problem I came across an idea by Paul Moss that combines the knowledge organiser with both retrieval practice and techniques of essay-writing.

    Which, all things considered, is no small achievement.

    And quite possibly an Act of Genius.

    Although Moss originally developed and applied his hybrid Organiser to English Literature A-level I’ve adapted it to what I think fits more easily with the needs of Social Science teachers (although the example I’m going to use here is based on Sociology – because that’s the subject content I’m most familiar with – it’s equally-applicable to subjects like Psychology).

    Where the original focused on a particular text (such as King Lear), my reformulation focuses on theories and theorists as the basis for getting students to organise their knowledge about a particular Module or Unit (most-likely the latter given the large amounts of knowledge content covered by Sociology (and Psychology) students).

    (more…)

    Psychology Transition Materials

    Thursday, July 1st, 2021

    As with their sociological peers, Psychology teachers have also been busy producing a wide range of materials designed, in the main, to ease the transition between GCSE and A-level and this means there’s plenty of resources freely available to either use “as is” or, more-likely perhaps, to inspire the creation of your own transition resources.

    Transition Pack: Prep Work 2

    I’ve tried to provide a fair spread of different types of transition resource, but while some teachers provide materials that take a slightly off-beat and novel approach, most of the stuff is fairly standard, straightforward “research and make notes” material. This doesn’t, of course, somehow make it bad or less useful but I do like to see a bit of innovation…

    Summer Work 2021: This features a simple “complete the table” activity of psychological perspectives combined with 4 exam-style questions that test mathematical understanding.

    The Stanford Prison Experiment: General plan from which students are required to research and write 600-word essay on the SPE.

    Chelmer Valley Transition Tasks: These consist of three types: a Creative Task based on a mini experiments; a Writing Task that involves producing a handout on Milgram’s Obedience Experiment and a Reading Task that involves producing a Mind Map from a specified article.

    Summer work: Students research and answer questions on two major psychological approaches.

    A Level Summer Work 2021: YouTube podcast designed to introduce students to the “Fundamentals of Psychology” while also trying to assess independent study and written communication skills through a range of tasks (from written work to watching YT videos). The podcast makes reference to “study sheets” that aren’t available to the casual viewer but if you find this approach interesting you’ll probably find a way around this problem. If you want to go down the more-traditional transition route, there’s also a short pack available with activities mainly based around research methods.

    Psychology Transition Pack: The basic Pack consists of 4 tasks with varying degrees of difficulty- from researching different approaches, through creating an historical timeline to opening a Twitter account, following a few suggested accounts and making notes on any interesting news that appears relevant to psychology. There are, however, some further optional Packs: Bridging the Gap “gives you a flavour of what A level Psychology is all about” by introducing some core psychological concepts and processes via a range of tasks (do a bit of research, answer some questions…) and exercises (such as designing a piece of research). Prep Work 2 involves a variety of tasks (from 15 minutes to 2 hours…) that variously involves watching things like TED talks and summarising the arguments, producing a handout or PowerPoint and the like. Prep Work 3 offers more of the same (although some of the links are broken).

    Psychology Induction Summer Work: Designed to introduce the skills and some of the content required for A-level, this pack offers a wide range of activities designed to “Introduce Psychology”. There’s also a recommended reading and viewing list for good measure.

    Year 12 Transition 2017: 3 tasks built around researching some key studies and writing about them in a structured way.

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    Sociology Transition Materials

    Wednesday, June 30th, 2021

    If you’re unfamiliar with the idea, Sociology transition materials are resources designed to help students transition from either GCSE to A-level or from A1 to A2.

    Sociology Work Pack

    In the normal course of events they consist of notes, readings, activities and exercises that students complete during the long months of their summer holidays when they would otherwise be engaged in looking at their mobile phones, lazing around on the beach, getting into all kinds of mischief or whatever it is “The Kids” do these days when not being closely supervised.

    I’m exaggerating a bit (possibly) because, quite honestly, I’ve no idea what Young People do with their spare time. We all suspect, however, they could be using it more-productively, hence, this batch of Transition Materials I’ve cobbled-together from a wide variety of sources to help you keep your students occupied and prepare them for whatever it is you have planned when the new teaching year begins.

    And that, of course, is Always Closer Than You Think.

    While, like me, you could be forgiven for thinking this is yet another “new initiative” designed to “improve student performance” across a “range of educational parameters” (Prop. G. Williamson), there’s actually quite a long(ish) history of providing students with preparatory work for A-level, although I’m guessing the materials are much more tightly focused on the curriculum than they were in the past.

    In my case, my first introduction to Sociology was a Reading List supplied by my putative teacher that ran to a couple of pages and consisted of a variety of texts, some explicitly sociological (such as Berger’s classic Invitation to Sociology), some generally sociological (such as Akenfield, Blythe’s social history of an English village) and some just of broad sociological import – Capote’s “factionalised” novel In Cold Blood being a case in point). This summer work consisted of “reading as many of the texts as possible” and while it was never marked – or indeed mentioned again – it was an interesting and informative use of my time.

    Speaking of which, times change and I hope you find it interesting to see the different approaches taken by a lot of hard-working teachers to either prepare their prospective a-level students for their new course or to ease the transition between the first and final year of the course.

    Whether you use the materials “as is” or simply as the basis for the development of your own specific materials is, of course, entirely up to you. Either way, having a quick look through what I’ve collected might save you a bit of time and effort.

    And since I’ve somehow managed to gather quite an extensive range of materials I’ve divided them into two broad categories (GCSE – A-level and A1 – A2) and provided a brief overview of their contents. This should go some small way to helping you find the materials that best-fit your purpose.

    (more…)

    Thinking Tools

    Sunday, June 13th, 2021
    Thinking Tools

    Although I’ve previously posted about the Eduqas Digital Educational Resources for both GCSE and A-level Sociology and Psychology, I thought  it might be worth drawing your attention to a section called “Thinking Tools” that can easily get missed what with all the free resources and all.

    This would be a pity because although it’s not going to win any prizes for radical innovation, it’s a section that contains a few (7 to be overly-precise) simple online exercises that you might find helpful and / or useful:

  • 3-2-1
  • 66 words
  • Funnelling
  • Question and Answer tool
  • Evaluate concept map
  • Reflection frame 1
  • Reflection frame 2
  • There’s also a handy Teachers Guide available if you need any help using the Tools, but since they’re all fairly self-explanatory you probably won’t need it to work out how to use any of them.

    Each Tool has a couple of associated menu options:

  • A Drawing Tool option that seems to have no discernible purpose other than to allow you / your students to draw random lines in different colours on the page. I had a lot of fun doing just that for about 39 seconds before I realised I had no idea what it’s purpose was supposed to be.
  • A Print option that not only allows you to print an exercise, completed or otherwise, but also to save it as a pdf file (and while this is just a matter of printing to a file rather than a piece of paper if you didn’t know you could do this it’s quite a handy thing to discover…). The ability to create some form of hard copy is a plus here because you can’t directly save any information you type into any of the tools…
  • Although the Tools have been created by the Eduqas Exam Board there’s nothing here that can’t be used by teachers with other exam boards.

    Sociology Revision Blasts

    Thursday, March 11th, 2021

    Having girded my loins, as you do, for this set of Tutur2U GCSE and A-level Revision videos I was quite prepared to be met with a series of “worthy-but-a-little-dull” screencasts that used a “Podcasts with Pictures” format to talk students through a range of sociological topics.

    Chatty. And Definitely Not Dull.

    In other words, someone talking over and around a series of static screens that, by-and-large, mirror whatever the narrator is saying.

    Some see this as reinforcement.

    Some see this as redundancy.

    You pays your money. Or not, in this case, because the screencasts are free (but you probably get the drift).

    Anyway, I digress.

    What we actually have here are a set of recorded webinars, featuring between 2 and 4 presenters, that run for around 40 – 45 minutes. Being a webinar, there’s also an (unseen) audience of students whose main role is to answer a wide range of different types of “revision-style questions” (multiple-choice, connecting walls, 30-second challenges and so forth) set by the presenters.

    Against all my, admittedly quite low, initial expectations I found the whole thing great fun, engaging and informative.

    This was helped, in no small measure, by the personable and chatty presenters who chivvied the unseen students into answering the on-screen questions and then provided a useful commentary on why they were (mostly) right and how this all connected to answering different types of exam question.

    While you’ll probably have to look through the webinars to see if the information tested fits with your current teaching – it’s mostly fairly generic stuff you’ll find in most GCSE / A-level textbooks, but there may be examples and references you’ve not taught or used alternatives for with your students – I think you’ll find them a really engaging way to mix-up revision sessions with your students, particularly if you’re teaching on-line.

    Webinars

    Podcasts with Pictures: Evaluating Sociological Research Methods

    Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

    Alexandra Sugden’s YouTube Channel contains a load of online lectures, for both GCSE and A-level, covering areas like crime and deviance, education, sociological theory, research methods and a tiny bit of religion.

    The Channel’s well worth a visit and a watch if you have the time and inclination and, as with many of the other Channels I’ve featured from time to time on this blog, what’s on offer is basically Podcasts with Pictures.

    Alexandra talks students through a range of information using static, illustrative, material that reflects and reinforces what’s being said.

    The lectures range in length from the “really short” at around 7 minutes to the significantly longer that can last upwards of 30 – 35 minutes. Although this can be quite a long time for a student to concentrate – either in the classroom or online – I found the tone of each lecture sufficiently confident and chatty to hold my attention. Others may not be as determined or dedicated, however, so if you want to use the lectures it may be useful to check them out beforehand so you can direct students to particular sections if necessary.

    In addition to the straightforward lesson content lectures there are a range of revision / exam-preparation films covering things like how to answer different types of question, how to revise using the Revision Clock method and, something that particularly caught my attention for some reason, how to evaluate sociological research methods using the PERVERT mnemonic.

    This, if you’re not familiar with it, is a 7-point checklist (Practical, Ethical, etc.) students can apply to a research methods question that helps them cover all the major knowledge, interpretation and evaluation points. The lecture covers each of the Pervert Points in turn, using examples to illustrate where necessary. Some (such as ethics) are covered in greater detail and more-comprehensively than others (such as validity).

    As with all such materials it’s possible to be picky about the information they contain (“validity”, for example, is not really about “truth” in research, while, in relation to a different lecture I watched on Broken Windows, Zimbardo’s 1969 “Anonymity of Place” experiment logically couldn’t have been about “testing Broken Windows” – a theory developed in 1982…) but as long as you’re on hand to correct any possible misconceptions all should be well.

    Otherwise, the lecture is around 11 minutes long, so probably just enough time to make a cup of coffee while your students Zoom-view the content.

    Online Classroom: Family Study Packs

    Thursday, November 5th, 2020

    Back in the day, when I was working for a company called Online Classroom, we produced a range of booklets, for both GCSE and A-level, that were sold online (hence the name…).

    To cut a long story short, when Online Classroom was sold to a video distribution company called Clickview in around 2009 they weren’t in the market for ebooks and a number of proto-projects went into abeyance – or, if you prefer, into a black hole from which they were destined never to emerge.

    Until now, as I was searching through a load of Family resources to see if there was anything worth posting. And found these that, to be perfectly honest, I’d forgotten about.

    The Packs were written by Craig Chester and designed around 4 key areas:

    1. Key Theorists

    2. Summary of Key Research

    3. Evaluation

    4. 20 Questions (based on and around the information in the Pack)

    As far as I can tell the Packs covered 2 main areas, Family Diversity and Childhood. There may have been more but if there were, I can’t find them.

    Anyway, the Packs are short, colourful and hopefully informative – although, as I’ve suggested, they are around 10 years old so the information they contain may be a little bit dated.

    The Packs…

    Family Diversity: Marriage and Cohabitation

    Family Diversity: Divorce

    Family Diversity: Alternative Structures

    Family Diversity: Other Household Structures

    Family Diversity: Ethnicity

    Childhood: Social Construction

    Contemporary Childhood

    Recent Research Digested: Education and the Disadvantage Gap

    Tuesday, September 1st, 2020
    Download as Pdf file

    The Education Policy Institute’s Annual Report into Education in England, authored by Hutchinson, Reader and Akhal (2020), makes a number of observations and assessments about the state of education in England. Most of these do, however, fall into the “interesting but dull” category so I thought I’d save you a lot of valuable time by reading the document on your behalf and picking-out what I think are probably the most useful bits for sociology teachers and students relating to the “disadvantage gap” (the difference in attainment between “disadvantaged pupils and their peers”)

    You can, of course, always read the Report (or the summary if you prefer) for yourself if you’re so inclined, but if you’re not, these are four of the more-interesting bits:

    (more…)

    Lessons In A Tube

    Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

    A YouTube to be exact because this post reintroduces TheTeacherSociology Channel that I first posted about a couple of years ago in relation to their extensive range of (AQA) exam-help videos.

    TheTeacherSociology has recently expanded her repertoire – presumably in response to the current need for on-line teaching – to create a range of tutorials focused on Theory and Methods. While again aimed at AQA teachers / students there’s plenty here that is relevant to teachers / students following other Specifications. They’re generally relevant to any sociology course that includes Theory and Methods (which, all-things-considered, is likely to be pretty much all of them).

    The tutorials tend to come-in at between 25 and 35 minutes (although reliability and validity, for example, is around 5 minutes, probably because once you’ve outlined the basics there’s not a lot more to add) and they can be used as off-the-peg lessons for teachers to use in a variety of ways, depending upon the circumstances in which they find their teaching.

    The tutorials generally follow the “podcast with pictures” format but in addition to the general explanation of a topic the tutorials include activities and exercises (with accompanying resources if necessary) students can do to consolidate their (individual) learning.

    The currently-available tutorials are:

    Postmodernism…

    Postmodernism

    Social Action

    Feminism

    Marxism

    Functionalism

    Reliability and Validity

    Education: 4. Role and Function: 2. Marxism and Neo-Marxism

    Sunday, May 10th, 2020

    marxism

    For traditional Marxism the main role and function of education is cultural reproduction – a concept based on a different interpretation of secondary socialisation to that favoured by their Functionalist (Structural) counterparts. Althusser (1971), for example, argues the reproduction of capitalism involves each new generation being taught the knowledge and skills required in the workplace, as well as children being orientated to “the values of capitalist reproduction”. These might involve ideas like emphasising individual effort and achievement, encouraging inter and intra-group competition (competition between groups – such as men and women – and within groups, such as age categories like young and old) and encouraging ideas about the private accumulation of wealth. In turn, ideas about co-operation, the socialisation of wealth and so forth are marginalised – or rarely, if ever, discussed – within the classroom.

    For traditional Marxists, therefore, schools don’t just select, differentiate and allocate children in the interests of “society as a whole” on some form of meritocratic basis. Rather, their role is to ensure the children of powerful economic elites achieve the levels of education required to follow in their parents’ (exploitative) footsteps. The role of education for Althusser was to educate most people “just enough” to be useful employees and a small number “more than enough” to take up high-powered elite working roles.

    There’s more. Quite a bit more…

    Education: 4. Role and Function: 1. Functionalism and Neo (New Right) Functionalism

    Friday, May 8th, 2020

    functionalism

    Functionalist arguments about the role of education focus on the various ways education links to other social institutions, such as the family and the workplace, as part of an overall network of connected institutions. The education system is, in this respect, conceptualised as a bridge between these institutions in two broad ways:

    1. On an institutional level, modern social systems involve different types of work and must develop ways of allocating and managing human resources to ensure they are used efficiently and effectively (such as not producing too many unskilled workers if there is no demand for their services).

    2. On an individual level education functions as an agency of secondary socialisation to, as Parsons (1959) argues, “broaden the individual’s experience” of the social world and prepare children for adult role relationships in the workplace and wider society.

    Meritocracy?

    For the education system to function efficiently on both levels it must be meritocratic. Rewards, such as well-paid, high status, work, are earned through individual abilities and efforts, such as working hard in school to gain qualifications. Merit-based systems are also competitive: different levels of reward are given for different levels of achievement. Competition must be based on equality of opportunity: if some are disadvantaged, through something like sexual or racial discrimination, society cannot be sure “the best people” occupy the most important, prestigious and well-rewarded adult roles.

    A meritocratic system involves, by definition, different levels of reward for different levels of effort and achievement – which means a major role of education is social differentiation; children have to be “made different”, on the basis of their individual merits, if education is to meet the requirements of a differentiated economy (one with a variety of different types of work, each requiring different levels of skills and knowledge). A meritocratic education system always, therefore, involves inequalities of outcome: children must leave the education system with different types and levels of qualifications appropriate to their efforts and achievements. As Parsons (1959) argues:

    It is fair to give differential rewards for different levels of achievement, so long as there has been fair access to opportunity and fair that these rewards lead on to higher-order opportunities for the successful”.

    Education systems are, in this respect, viewed as functionally necessary for both the individual – as a means of finding their place in wider society – and “society in general” because education performs a vital and necessary differentiation function in advanced industrial societies

    The development of mass education is, therefore, explained in terms of functional differentiation. That is, the idea institutions develop to perform particular specialised functions, such as “work” and “education”. If, for whatever reason, the needs of one institution are not being adequately met, tensions develop within the system that threaten its stability and ability to function – the development of industrial forms of work, for example, required a newly literate and numerate workforce and without these skills the economy could neither function nor develop. Where other institutions, such as the family, cannot meet this new requirement system stability is threatened and equilibrium can only be restored in one of two ways:

  • an existing institution, such as the family or religion, evolvesto perform the required function. This involves differentiation that occurs within individual institutions; different roles need to be developed if the institution is to perform its new function.
  • a new institution, such as formal education, arises to ‘fulfil the need’.
  • While the former is always a possibility, the scale of economic change as societies industrialise overwhelms the ability of existing institutions to cope with the new changes and demands, hence, at some point in their development all societies will necessarily develop a specialised institution (education) as a means of restoring system stability.

    The concept of functional differentiation is particularly important because it suggests how functionalists see the broad relationship between economic and educational (or cultural) institutions; the latter develops and adapts to reflect and support the former. One important dimension to this relationship is that differentiation within the workplace is reflected by differentiation within the education system. A general process across all modern education systems is, for example, some kind of division of pupils along academic and vocational lines – a distinction that’s been variously justified by reference to ideas like:

  • natural differences in intelligence and aptitude.
  • Individuals choosing different educational routes: some favour more-practical and some favour more-academic routes.
  • the particular needs of the economy in the sense, structurally, of a need for people to leave education with skills that will fit them to the available jobs.
  • In Britain, for example, the 1944 Education Act that established free, universal, education, explicitly addressed education’s relationship with the workplace through a distinction between:

  • Grammar schools designed for academic pupils who were destined to move-on to University and professional employment.
  • Secondary Modern schools designed for vocational pupils who were destined to follow a practical or technical route into the workforce.
  • This type of functional division is reflected in secondary education systems worldwide:

  • India has both academic and vocational (school and profession-based) routes through secondary education.
  • Pakistan has similarly developed academic and technical routes.
  • Mauritius organises secondary education in a slightly different way but has also developed a distinction between academic routes into the workplace and a form of prevocational education for around 5% of the school population.
  • The separation of academic and vocational educational routes, therefore, reflects the idea of functional differentiation and specialisation in terms of two basic forms of work:

  • professional careers requiring higher levels of abstract knowledge and lower levels of practical expertise.
  • non-professionalwork requiring higher levels of practical expertise and lower levels of abstract knowledge.
  • While in Britain, at least, the rather clunky physical segregation of “academic” and “vocational” pupils into separate schools largely – but not totally – disappeared with the development of Comprehensive education in the mid-1970s, the functional requirement to competitively “sift and sort” pupils of different aptitudes and abilities into different spheres arguably continues with various in-school practices such as streaming, setting and banding and external testing / examinations at 7, 11, 14 and 16 (GCSE).

    While the specific means of “sifting and sorting pupils” may have changed since Davis and Moore (1945) argued that the education system existed to ensure that “those who are most able and talented intellectually” are allocated work roles that offer the highest rewards in terms of income, power and status, the broad sentiment remains true 75 years later. For traditional Functionalism the most functionally important economic roles must be filled by the most able, capable and competent members of society. The relationship between educational systems and the workplace, therefore, is one where “Education is the proving ground for ability and hence the selective agency for placing people in different statuses according to their abilities”.

    (more…)

    Education: 3. The Purpose of Schools

    Tuesday, May 5th, 2020

    The final part of the “Structure and Organisation of Education” trilogy (Part 1: Structure and Organisation and Part 2: Schools, Marketisation and Parentocracy are, as is the way of trilogies, also available) ends with a !Bang! (if by “bang” you mean “a slightly loud noise”) by looking at various forms of school organisation (from the formal curriulum to the informal curriculum, from streaming to cultural reproduction, from Here to Eternity etc.)

    Although the obvious answer to any question about the purpose of schools is “education”, the meaning of education is neither self-evident nor unproblematic: the former because “education” can encompass a wide range of formal and informal types of learning – from explicit teaching about ox-bow lakes in geography to implicit teaching about gendered relationships in the classroom – and the latter because what counts as “education” is always socially constructed and socially-contested. It always reflects, Weber (1922) suggests, what any society considers “Worthy of being known”.

    What constitutes education in any society, therefore – from how it is structured and organised to which ideas are actually taught in a classroom (or, increasingly, online) – is always the outcome of a power struggle between different interested parties: from business and media corporations through political parties to individual parents and teachers. It is, therefore, against this background of conflict and consensus that we need to outline and evaluate the purpose of schools.

    One way to start to do this is through Merton’s (1957) distinction between manifest and latent functions:

  • Manifest functions relate to the things schools are expected to do; in this instance teaching children the knowledge and skills required by adult society. This idea is explored in terms of the nature and organisation of the formal curriculum.
  • Latent functions refer to things not officially recognised as being part of the school’s purpose and may also be the unintended consequences of the way schools are formally organised – an idea explored in terms of the hidden curriculum.
  • (more…)

    Education: 2. Schools, Marketisation and Parentocracy

    Sunday, May 3rd, 2020

    Part 1 of this series looked at a range of general ideas about the structure and organisation of education in our society, through a broadly historical overview of educational development over the past 150 years. In part 2 the focus is on the structure and organisation of different types of school within the education system.

    Over the past 25 years secondary schooling (broadly, 11 – 18) has seen a range of organisational changes we can illustrate by looking at different types of schools now available to parents in both the private and state-maintained sectors in England and Wales.

    A Public School…

    Private sector

    According to Department of Education data (2018/19) There are around 2,400 Independent schools in the UK (out of a total of around 25,000 primary and secondary schools), funded by parental fees – Harrow, for example, charges nearly £42,000 for the 2020/21 school year  – and investment income. Around half of these schools also claim charitable status which gives them a range of tax reliefs and exemptions.

    According to the Independent Schools Council (2015) these schools currently educate around 7% of the total school-age (5 – 16) population and 14% of post-16 students. Independent schools are allowed to set their own admissions policy (the major Public Schools, for example, operate some form of entrance exam selection process in addition to charging fees) and do not have to follow the National Curriculum (although most do, usually in a modified form).

    The leading 10% of independent schools – those affiliated to the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference – are usually known as Public Schools, a label that reflects their origins as schools for the poor.

    (more…)

    Selective Comprehensives: The British Dimension

    Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020
    Click to download Report

    The 2017 Sutton Trust Report into attainment levels in Comprehensive Schools in England discovered, probably to no-one’s great surprise, that the top performing Comprehensive schools were far more socially-selective than their lower-performing Comprehensive counterparts.

    Overall, the top 500 Comprehensive schools had an intake of around 9% of pupils who were eligible for Free School Meals (FSM), a rough-and-ready proxy measurement of both poverty and social class. The average FSM intake in English Comprehensive schools is around 17% of pupils.

    (more…)

    Crime and Deviance Resources

    Thursday, February 13th, 2020
    Globalisation and Crime

    For some reason I seem to have collected quite a lot of crime and deviance resources that are just sitting-around taking up space on my hard drive when they could be doing something useful like helping students revise or teachers plan lessons.

    And from this intro you’ll probably have guessed that what follows is an esoteric – not to say serendipitous – collection of resources (Presentations, Worksheets, Booklets – there’s even a Quiz in there somewhere) that I’ve bunged together under a general heading (“Resources!”) and posted on the web.

    And because there’s quite a lot of stuff I’ve generally kept description to a minimum – partly because if something looks even vaguely interesting you can download it and assess it for yourself and partly because it’s a bit of a chore and I’m making the space to spend a bit of Quality Time with Teddy my dog.

    So, in no particular order of quality or significance:

    Resources…

    Lord of the Rings: Family Revision Quiz

    Sunday, December 15th, 2019
    Just click to download the file

    This simple PowerPoint Quiz, created by Leanne Trinder, uses a Lord of the Rings theme around which to deliver 10 multiple-choice questions on various aspects of family life.

    Each question has 3 possible answers and, unusually for a PowerPoint quiz it’s very forgiving of incorrect answers – if you get a question wrong you can just go back and have another try.

    The metadata says it was created in 2003, which means it’s either been lurking on my hard drive for a good few years (always a possibility) or it’s something I’ve recently found that just happens to be a little old. I’ve slightly-modified the file by changing the screen dimensions (to 16:9 from 4:3), aligned the multiple-choice answers and corrected the odd spelling mistake. Other than that, the file is as it was originally created.

    Either way it’s quite a diverting little revision resource that you can expand and modify to your heart’s content – which you may need to do in order to tailor the questions to your own particular teaching. There may, for example, be writers / studies you don’t teach that may require replacing with those you do teach.

    Changing the questions is, however, very simple and straightforward – it just involves adding and removing text.

    Adding more questions is a little more complicated but if you know what you’re doing it’s a simple enough process. If you’re not confident messing around with the basic structure, however, just create several copies of the Quiz using different questions – something you can do from scratch if you want to use the format for other areas of the course.

    As it stands the resource is aimed at A-level Sociology but there’s nothing to stop you modifying the questions to GCSE level or adding a new set of questions for a different subject entirely.