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Leave Nothing to Chance: An Education Simulation

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

“Leave Nothing to Chance” is, unless I’m very much mistaken (and I probably am), my first real attempt at a “proper classroom simulation”.

I’d like to say I’m excited about it, but when all’s-said-and-done it’s only a simple simulation.

On the other hand, I very much hope you like it, use it, develop it and share it.

Not necessarily in that order, but you probably get the idea.

Aside from this, if you need a bit of convincing about the content, the sim is designed to illustrate differential educational achievement and uses the mechanism of a lottery – or to be more-precise, a series of Key Stage lotteries – to explore how differences in achievement are, for sociologists, the result of material and cultural factors that occur both inside and outside the school.

The lotteries, although a central feature of the game (there can only be one winner. Unless you decide otherwise), are the device through which students are encouraged to explore, with your help, direction and guidance (you know, the teaching stuff), how and why different social groups achieve differently in the education system. They are, in other words, the glue that holds the lesson together.

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Beat The Bourgeoisie: A Simulation

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

Long-time readers of this blog may recall that around 18 months ago I posted a series of sociology simulations, under the general title “7 Sims in 7 Days”, one of which, Cards, Cakes and Class, focused on giving students a physical taste of social inequality. However, while I like the basic ideas underpinning the sim, it suffers from two major problems:

1. It takes a lot of time, effort and space to set-up and run.

2. It mainly focuses on economic inequality to the detriment of other dimensions of class inequality – specifically, cultural and social capital. While the former is, of course, an important dimension of inequality, students need to understand, discuss and, in this instance, experience other dimensions of inequality.

If you liked the basic idea behind “Cakes and Class” (and who doesn’t like to see their students suffer in the name of Education?) but were prevented from running the sim because you couldn’t commit to everything involved in setting it up, you might be interested in this variation by Dawn Norris (Beat The Bourgeoisie: A Social Class Inequality and Mobility Simulation Game). While it covers much the same area as Cakes and Class it does so in a way that’s:

1. Easier to set-up and run: you just need two groups of students and some questions.

2. Quicker to carry-out: Norris suggests the simulation itself should run for around 30 minutes, (with as much time as you like after for a discussion of content and outcomes).

(more…)

EySKuBe: The Addiction Simulation

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

To complement the free chapter  on addictive behaviour you can give your students a taste of addictive behaviour with this simple – and harmless – simulation.

This was originally created by Todd Campbell (Texas A & M University) and the instructions here are filtered through the work of Linda Walsh (University of Northern Iowa)

Purpose

The basic purpose of the simulation is to give students a personal insight into addictive behaviour through the experience of being “addicted”.

Method

You can run the sim over whatever period you like, but 48-hours is a suggested minimum because this will include class time, time at home and time spent socialising. This gives a good spread of situations and encounters that need to be managed.

Inform the students they have developed an addiction to a new designer drug:  “EySKuBe” – known as “Ice” on The Street (possibly because it’s actually just frozen water). Where they once used to just dabble in the softer types of water they now need the harder stuff.

The simulation involves following these rules:

1. To satisfy their addiction they must put EySKube (ice cubes, just to be very, very, clear) in every single liquid they drink during the 48-hours. There is no drinking without EySKuBe (as the advertising slogan might say. If it were legal. Which it isn’t). They cannot drink anything without adding EySKuBe

As an additional complication (and possible talking point at parties…) you can ramp the simulation up a notch by the requirement that their EySKuBe must be tinted – they can only consume a drink that contains say, red, blue or green EySKuBe. This is because with a real illegal addiction the drug wouldn’t be available everywhere – you’d have to either find a dealer or make your own Luckily you’ve probably already set-up your own home-brew lab (sometimes called a refrigerator). It should be relatively easy to hide the fact you’re making plain ‘SKuBe from inquisitive eyes, but it will be more difficult to hide tinted ‘SKuBe.

If any non-addict discovers or questions you about what you’re doing, you’re busted. Your addiction is revealed and your immediate future is either rehab or jail…

2. You cannot let non-addicts see you taking EySKuBe. If you are challenged about your behaviour you’re busted (rehab or jail…).

3. To feed your addiction you must consume at least one EySKuBe every hour. If you fail to do this you’re busted (rehab or jail…). Feeding your addiction without exposing yourself as an addict means you will need to carefully plan how to manage your addiction throughout the day. If any non-addict sees you consuming ice or questions you about what you’re consuming you’re busted.

4. Each addicted student starts the simulation with 25 Pretend Pounds (P£25). Each cube costs P£5 each so if you need to buy cubes of ice this is the minimum a dealer will charge. They may, however, charge you more if they think you’re desperate. If you run-out of P£ dealers will not sell you any more EySKuBe. In relation to dealers you can run the sim in one of two ways:

a. Each student in the simulation can be a dealer as well as a user

b. A certain percentage of the class are designated as “dealers” – you can only buy EySKuBe from them.

Any EySKuBe dealing must be discreet. If any non-addict sees or questions what you’re doing you’re both busted.

5. You must not talk to anyone outside of the EySKuBe culture (the class) about your situation for the 48 hours. Also keep in mind your teacher is not an addict. You cannot reveal your addiction to them. The only people who know about your addiction are other EySKuBe addicts or dealers. If a non-addict questions you about your behaviour (such as you leaving the room to secretly get your fix) you must not reveal the truth. Deception is part of the sim and if they see or suspect you are doing something illegal you’re busted.

Being busted doesn’t end the sim. Just start over but record the fact you were caught in your log (see below).

6. An hourly log should be kept every waking hour during the simulation. You should record:

When do you expect to get your next dose of EySKuBe?

How will you obtain the EySKuBe you need?

Any difficulties, feelings, reactions you are experiencing.

Anything you think may be relevant to the sim.

The log simulates the obsession, involvement and regular attention common to many addictions. Preoccupation with the abused substance can seep into every waking hour. You may not be experiencing the intense withdrawal symptoms of addicts but keeping a log forces you to think about your drug every waking hour of the day.

Not real ice…

7. This is a simulation. You must not do anything illegal or morally wrong to fulfil its requirements. If the simulation gets, for any reason, too intense, you may terminate it (go into rehab). If you choose to do this write-up in your log the reasons for stopping your participation.

8. At the end of the simulation turn-in your log to your teacher, plus a write-up of your experiences and your reaction to the simulation. For example, you might want to consider:

In what ways, if any, did your experiences / behaviour seem like those of an addict?

If you ran out of money or couldn’t make / consume your hourly craving what would you have done to ensure you got your fix?

How many times, if any, were you busted during the sim? If you were repeatedly busted what might have been the consequences “in real life”?

How did you like having to alter many of your daily activities to accommodate your addition?

What was the hardest part of the simulation?

Finally:

Given that real psychoactive substances could not be used, are there other things that would make the simulation more realistic and effective?

Really Simple Simulations: “On Trial”

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

An “On Trial” pdf template that can be used to create a range of simple classroom simulations

The idea of the RSS “On Trial” template is to make using Simulations in the classroom as easy as possible, especially if you’re doing some flipped teaching / learning.

As the title suggests the Sim involves using a Courtroom Trial as the basis for arguing pro-and-anti positions about a range of possible topics and issues (basically anything in Sociology / Psychology that fits this particular template).

Sociological Sims from Cengage

Monday, September 21st, 2020

I’ve continually argued that games and simulations have an important part to play in the sociology classroom – I’ve found, created and posted a fair number partly because they can be counter-intuitive in a way that forces students to confront and reassess their taken-for-granted ideas about social behaviour – from education to inequality – and partly because they have the potential to involve students more-deeply in the actual process of learning through experience and discovery.

They have, in other words, the capacity to turn passive learning into active learning, something I consider A Good Thing.

Although the vast majority of the sims I’ve collated are designed for offline use I’ve recently stumbled upon some sims designed, in the brave-new-words of their Publisher, to:

Build the sociological imaginations of your students by showing them how social structures impact others’ realities”.

Despite – or maybe because of – this rather bold claim, the reality is sadly a little more prosaic: the reach of online learning frequently exceeds its grasp. This isn’t to say the sims aren’t worth playing, but you do need to keep in mind they’re not particularly immersive and their subject matter can be a little esoteric (and aimed squarely at an American market: most of the evidence and examples cited are US-based).

On the plus side, however, they combine useful sociological information with simple decision-making (there’s only ever two choices) that has both sociological consequences and provides interesting feedback and information that students might normally expect to learn through something like passive note-taking.

If this sounds like I’m damning them with faint praise it’s not meant to read that way: I personally enjoyed playing the 4 available sims and I think your students will too.

They should also learn something from them, which is probably the objective…

1. Sociologically Strong? Do you have a strong sociological imagination?

Sociologist C. Wright Mills defined the sociological imagination as the ability to understand the relationship between individual experience and the broader patterns of society. This means being able to examine people’s experiences within their social context.

2. Second-Shift Ready? Can you manage the second shift?”

Sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild defined the second shift as the unpaid domestic labor, including housework and childcare, that people do after their “first shift” at a full-time job. Often, in heterosexual, two-parent families, women perform the vast majority of second-shift labor.

3. Your Career, or Your Child? How free are your choices?

Social structure is defined as the social institutions and social relationships that together constitute society. The social institutions that make up the social structure include the family, education, religion, the government, and the economy. These institutions and the patterns of inequality they contain shape individuals’ choices.

4. How Would You Fare? How would you fare as a refugee?

The Civil War in Syria, which began in 2011, is the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century. It has forced millions of Syrians to become refugees, seeking asylum in foreign countries.

Psychology Teachers Toolkit(s)

Friday, September 18th, 2020

A few years back (around 7 or 8 to be precisely imprecise), Psychology Teacher Michael Griffin “with the help of TES forums and colleagues” put together a Teachers Toolkit running to around 100 pages of Lesson Notes, Starters and Plenaries, Introductions and Simulations, Studies and Theories, and Self / Peer assessment Strategies.

Part of the Online Toolkit…

While, in my less-than-humble-opinion, this remains something of a Gold Standard for teacher-collaboration (it’s well-worth grabbing because it’s likely to save you a lot of time, effort, trouble and tears. I’m not certain about the last one, but the first three definitely) the British Psychological Society (BPS) have teamed-up with the Association for the Teaching of Psychology (ATP) to create a new and slightly-different Online Teachers Toolkit designed to cover four main areas:

  • Open evenings: a host of ideas and activities ideal for face to face or virtual events
  • Classroom posters: ready to print and display – including “what is psychology?” and “common myths”
  • Mental health and wellbeing guidance: tips and advice to support positive wellbeing in your classroom
  • Practical activities: step by step guides for practical activities to enhance learning in your classroom
  • The payload for all of the above are Teacher and Student Resources (from an Open Evening PowerPoint to a range of Activity Packs on areas like Harlow’s Monkey experiments, Stroop Effect materials and so forth) that promise to build into a useful term-by-term collection.

    To be honest, the resources are currently a little, shall we say, underwhelming?, particularly when compared to its illustrious predecessor (no-relation) but everyone’s got to start somewhere so it’s worth giving it a butcher’s and a chance.

    And if this all seems like a lukewarm welcome to the new Toolkit, it’s not meant to be.

    At least the BPS is interested in – and seems to value – A-level teachers.

    Not something of which you could reasonably accuse its sociological counterpart

    The Crime Collection

    Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

    In a previous post I pulled-together all the free crime and deviance films we have available to create a simple one-stop-shop (so to speak) you could browse, rather than have to search individually for these films.

    I’ve extended this thinking to bring together all the posts we’ve made on Crime and Deviance – and since there’s “quite a few” I thought it might be useful to break them down into rough categories (Notes, Organisers, Activities, PowerPoints and Films) for your viewing convenience.

    Since I’ve discovered this is actually quite a task, I’ll add the different categories “as-and-when” I can, starting with:

    (more…)

    ShortCuts to Sociology: free film collection

    Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

    For reasons that need not detain us here I was looking at the various free films we’ve published over the past few years and thought it might be useful to gather them all together in a single post.

    Strain Theory

    This would enable anyone who’s interested in using them with their students – particularly, but not exclusively, for online viewing / work – to both see what’s available in different areas (from crime through religion to media) and have them easily accessible in a single place rather than being dotted randomly around the blog.

    And so, when I was at a loose-end awaiting delivery of some voice-over files for a couple of new films currently being edited (or not, as is currently the the case), I thought that’s what I’d do.

    So I did.

    And here they all are, in a handy single-post list.

    The films vary in length, most coming-in at between 3 or 4 minutes, with a couple of exceptions – the “1-minute” films are, unsurprisingly, all around 1-minute long (give or take) and there are a couple of longer films that last around 8 – 10 minutes. The films are broadly-designed around major sociological ideas, concepts and perspectives (such as Risk Theory, labelling theory or green crime) and can be used to introduce these ideas, prompt discussion and so forth.

    click to see list of films

    Flipping Good | 1. The Structure of Social Action

    Friday, May 24th, 2019
    Heads. Or Tails?

    This is a simulation I’ve slightly adapted from Renzulli, Aldrich and Reynolds’ “It’s Up In The Air – Or Is It?”, where they use the game of “Heads or Tails?” to show “How social structures can constrain individual actions”.

    They apply these ideas to an understanding of social inequality, while here I mainly want to concentrate on how the game can be used:

  • To help students understand the concepts of social structure (in particular) and social action.
  • As the building block for various applications across the Sociology Specification, both explicitly, in areas like social stratification and differentiation and implicitly, in relation to stuff  like family, education and crime.
  • Set Up

    To run the simulation, you will need:

  • Around a minimum of 10 – 12 students (include yourself if necessary), although the more students you have in the class the better because it will make it easier to see how patterns of economic inequality develop. If you only have a small number of students it’s probably worth a test run to see if it works for you. If you’re really “lacking the numbers” you could try to rope in any non-sociology students who happen to be around.
  • 5 coins for every student (such as 1p or 2p coins in the UK).
  • If you think your students are likely to cheat by introducing their own coins into the sim you can use something like plastic tokens instead. In this case you will only need one coin per student.

  • Display Board (such as a whiteboard) to show many coins each student has at the end of each round. Ideally this should be large enough for everyone to easily see how many coins each student holds.
  • Timer (optional) such as a kitchen timer that can be set to 1-minute intervals.
  • How to play the game

    Marxism Sim

    Saturday, November 24th, 2018

    The Prisoner: A Picture of Portmeirion. Apparently.

    This is a slightly weird one because it seems to be an unfinished, abandoned, web site dating from 4 or 5 years ago created by Chris Deakin (who has another sociology blog you might find useful).

    It has precisely two blog posts.

    With a bit of unhealthy competition you could probably force this price down…

    One of those posts – “Using simulation to illustrate basic Marxist theory” – might, however, be useful to you if (probably more-accurate to say “when”) you find yourself introducing Marxism to a sea of blank faces. It’s just a relatively simple “Marxism sim” that casts your students in the role of owners and labourers, the experience of which should help you to introduce – and them to understand – a range of basic-but-important Marxist ideas and concepts (Means of Production, Social relations to production, ownership and control and so on).

    Although I’m not altogether sure this post is complete (there’s reference to creating “a chart on the board which looks something like this” that is signally absent) but there’s enough here to successfully run the sim. In addition, it strikes me that there’s also scope to expand the basic sim if you want to introduce further elements / ideas.

    If you have a large enough class, for example, you could set-up a number of “factories” where different “companies” compete against each other for your custom. The effect of this competition on the production process might be interesting to illustrate, as might further ideas about companies being bankrupted, the establishment of monopoly controls when there’s only one company left in the market (and its effect on prices etc.).

    Confirmation Bias | p1

    Monday, November 19th, 2018

    Confirmation bias involves the tendency – usually, but not necessarily, unconscious – for individuals to look for and accept information that confirms what they already know and believe.

    In other words, it involves a cognitive tendency to place greater importance on “evidence” that generally supports a position we already hold.

    This process has been famously simulated by Wason and Johnson-Laird’s (1972) “Four Card” puzzle, the objective of which is to solve an apparently simple “If X, Then Y” statement using just the aforementioned 4 cards.

    The significance in relation to confirmation bias, as will hopefully be demonstrated if you run the sim in your classroom, is that the majority of your students will choose a solution that confirms what they already know, rather than testing that knowledge, as the puzzle requires.

    The beauty of the sim is its apparent simplicity.

    Students only have 4 cards from which to choose and the number of potential combinations is very small (reduced even further if they immediately realise they must initially choose a vowel).

    In all probability, most students will choose A and 4, but a reasonable number should work-out the correct solution.

    (more…)

    SWOTing for Success

    Monday, October 22nd, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (more…)

    Make A Pitch: selling sociological sausages

    Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

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

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

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

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

    Interactive Ethics

    Friday, October 12th, 2018

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

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

    And rightly so.

    Probably.

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

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

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

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

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

    It’s also Quite Good Fun.

    Not words usually associated with a lesson on Ethics.

    (more…)

    The Hidden Rules of (Social) Class

    Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

    Although the concept of social class is deeply-embedded in A-level Sociology Specifications, a lot of time and effort nominally devoted to this concept is actually taken-up by talking about the economic dimension of class. Although clearly important, the continued emphasis on economic class means students come to see the concept largely in these terms: class as an objectively-measurable category synonymous with wealth, income and work.

    While there’s nothing particularly wrong with this approach, the economic emphasis (some are rich, some are poor and some are sort-of in-the-middle) often diverts attention away from the more-subjective cultural dimensions to class that, I would argue, humanises the concept and, by so doing, makes it much more intrinsically interesting for a-level students to study.

    This cultural dimension gives, I think, a deeper and arguably more-involving sense of how people actually live their class lives and by conceptualising class in this way – as a social as well as an economic identity – it allows students to explore the concept in an arguably more-involving way: one that reintroduces the notion of subjective class experiences in a way that complements the idea of objective class positions and consequences.

    In addition, a focus on the “social dimensions” of class also makes the introduction of concepts like cultural and social capital more meaningful to students and locates them in a conceptual framework distinct from, while closely correlated with, the notion of (objective) economic class positions.

    Refocusing how students see and understand the more-subjective elements of social class also allows teachers to explore how and why these subjective dimensions impact on objective class experiences (related to areas like family life, educational achievement and the like). It should also give greater meaning to concepts like class identity, which all-to-often are simply reduced to a reading-off of class differences based around notions of economic class.

    One way to do this is to get students to think about different dimensions of social class in terms of how it is governed by what Payne (A Framework for Understanding Poverty, 2001) calls “hidden rules of behaviour”: rules that, for example, condition how people in one class see their position in relation to other classes and, by extension, rules that structure and constrain individual class perceptions and behaviours.

    (more…)

    The Sociological Detectives: Hiding in Plain Sight

    Friday, April 6th, 2018

    In this third outing in the Research Methods series, the Sociological Detectives investigate Overt Participant Observation through a simple piece of hands-on research.

    This PowerPoint Presentation – the 3rd in the Research Methods series (the others being The Research Process and Non-Participant Observation) – combines a hands-on approach to doing Overt Participant Observation with a classroom-based evaluation of the method.

    Students take-on the role of Sociological Detectives which, in this instance, means they are set “a Task” to complete (it’s probably no great secret that this involves doing a simple bit of Overt Participant Observation) outside of class time.

    Students can then use their (brief) experience of using the method to inform the evaluation work they then do inside the classroom.

    While actually doing the Observation is not essential (the Task Options document that outlines some suggestions for how the Observation might be carried-out includes a simple Thought Experiment option for classrooms where, for whatever reason, students can’t physically carry-out this type of observational research) it does, I think, represent a useful teaching and learning device.

    It is, in this respect, a relatively simple – and hopefully interesting – way for students to bring their personal experiences to bear on the more-theoretical aspects of sociological research. (more…)

    The Sociological Detectives: BOLO

    Monday, April 2nd, 2018

    In this research methods simulation students take on the role of Sociological Detectives to investigate formal and informal norms using non-participant observation.

    In the second simulation in the Research Methods series – the first, Trial and Error,  introduced the Research Process – students again take-on the role of Sociological Detectives. This time, however, they are investigating and evaluating a specific research method, Non-Participant Observation and the simulation offers two ways to do this

    1. Field research involves students actually carrying-out a short – typically 30-minute – observational study of their choice (although they are encouraged to check its appropriateness and safety with you). Once you have accepted their choice this is something they should be able to complete outside the classroom, in their own time. The remaining part of the sim – evaluating non-participant observation as a research method – can then be completed in class time when you’re available to provide help and assistance if necessary.

    Alternatively, you can run the sim as a whole-class exercise by looking at the respective strengths and weaknesses of non-participant observation as a class, with individual students able to illustrate key ideas with examples drawn from the observation they’ve done.

    (more…)

    Sociology Sim: An Exercise in Inequality

    Friday, March 9th, 2018

    As you may have gathered, I rather like simulations and this is another one I’ve found that can be added to the expanding list.

    This particular one was created by Chris Andrews and is interesting, at least to me, because its focus on social inequality means it has applications right across the sociological spectrum; you can use this sim just about anywhere you need to illustrate structured social inequality.

    Apart from its flexibility, it satisfies what Andrews’ calls four criteria for running a successful in-class exercise. A sim should:

    • be simple and easy to learn,
    • sensitise students to central motifs or aspects of sociology versus specific theories or methods,
    • involve minimal preparation and resources
    • be usable within one-hour length class periods or less.

    You can, if you want, download the original article containing the full documentation for the sim that:

    • Provides a general overview of and rationale for the sim
    • Describes how to run the game
    • Includes a debate and debrief section that explores how the sim can be used to illustrate different aspects of structured social inequality.

    Alternatively, if you just want to view the instructions for running the sim and view some short Notes I’ve added about using the sim to illustrate and discuss structured social inequality in the context of Education, I’ve created a short booklet for just this purpose…

     

    Welcome to the ShortCutstv Blog

    Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

    This is the part of the site we use to post anything we think might be of interest to teachers and students of Sociology and Psychology – from announcements about new Sociology, Psychology and Criminology films, to teaching and learning Notes, PowerPoints, web sites, software – just about anything that piques our interest, really.

    In September 2019 we hit 600 individual Blog posts and to make it easier for you to find a particular post on a particular topic we’ve added a range of functions (on the bar to the right) that should help:

    Search Box: if you’re looking for something specific. It’s not very clever so try to Keep It Simple.

    Recent Posts displays the most recent posts (yes, really). Not the most useful widget in the world. Obviously.

    Archive Posts: This is actually useful if you want a quick way to look back through the numerous posts we’ve made by month / year. Just click the month / year you want from the drop-down list.

    Popular Tags: identifies the most popular keywords used in posts (the larger the word, the more posts there are about it). Just click the word to see the posts…

    Popular Posts: identifies the posts that have had the most views so you can Follow the Crowd(tm).

    Categories: allows you to filter posts by Sociology, Psychology, Simulations and Toolbox – so if you only want to see Psychology posts (or whatever), this is the filter for you.

    Last, but by no means least, you can use the Get Notified box to sign-up for an email notification each time a new post appears on the Blog.

    We only use this address to send you automatic notifications and it won’t be passed to a third-party, used for spamming you or whatever.

    We like to think we’re better than that.

    Trial: And Error: Online version

    Monday, October 30th, 2017

    While PowerPoint is fine for displaying via desktop devices it’s not quite so clever when it comes to the different devices, from tablets to mobiles, potentially being used inside and outside the a-level classroom.

    If, therefore, you want a portable (html5) version of the Sociological Detectives Research Process Simulation that has the same functionality as the PowerPoint version, I’ve created an online version that you’re more than welcome to try. Although it doesn’t do anything different to the PowerPoint version it’s a version that students can access at anytime, before or after the particular lesson in which the simulation is used.

    In the case of the former you might want your students to familiarise themselves with the sim before you link it to Popper’s Hypothetico-Deductive model of research. This involves a kind of flipped learning where students familiarise themselves with the basic analogy used in the sim and which can then be applied and evaluated in a lesson.

    Alternatively it can be used after a lesson as a way for students to recap the ideas you’ve introduced.

    Trial: And Error Frontend

    Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

    In response to quite literally no-one asking for it, we’ve created a Frontend – what people laughingly used to call “a Menu” – for the Research Process sim. This brings together three elements of a possible lesson (the Simulation PowerPoint, Hypothetico-Deductive PowerPoint and “Nature of Science” pdf) in one handy, easy to access, place.

    Apart from the aforesaid handiness, using a Frontend looks a bit more professional and may give the not-entirely-erroneous impression that we know exactly what we’re doing when OfSted – or some over-zealous SMT-type – is In The House.

    To use the Frontend all the files need to be in the same directory, but since it uses relative addressing it will work from any directory you create. Even if, for some reason known only to you and your dog, you’re in the habit of naming directories after your pets. It does happen.

    A couple more things:

    1. The PowerPoints run as Shows (.ppsx) which means they will work on a device that doesn’t have PowerPoint.

    2. You need to have a pdf Reader – Adobe or otherwise – on your device (it doesn’t have to be in the same directory as the pdf file). Otherwise you won’t be able to open the “Nature of Science” pdf.

    And that could be embarrassing.

    Or maybe liberating.

    One of the two.

    The Sociological Detectives: Trial: And Error

    Monday, October 23rd, 2017

    The latest addition to the burgeoning Sociological Detectives™ Universe is a role-playing simulation of the Research Process – and Popper’s Hypothetico-Deductive Model of Scientific Research in particular – that uses the analogy of a criminal investigation to help students understand and experience how and why the research process is structured.

    The simulation takes the students through a number of stages in the investigation – from identifying a problem to prosecuting the guilty party – that mirror the different stages in Popper’s Model.

    The basic idea here is that the role-playing element, whereby students are faced with a range of suspects and evidence from which they have to choose one individual they believe the evidence shows is guilty, adds an interesting dimension to what can be a fairly dry and difficult-to-teach area – particularly if you don’t have the time or resources to engage in some hands-on application. (more…)

    The Sociological Detectives: We Have A Situation…

    Sunday, September 10th, 2017

    This PowerPoint Presentation brings together a couple of ideas, one of which – the idea of “students playing the role of detectives” I’ve previously explored in a slightly different way. The other – a situation-based application – is one I’ve adapted from a couple of recent sources:

    Firstly, the AQA Crime and Methods exam question that presented students with a scenario and then required them to assess the suitability of a particular research method for studying it.

    Secondly the WJEC / Eduqas Criminology Specification that requires students to look at a situation – such as the behaviour of unruly youth – and show how a sociological explanation of their choice might understand and explain it.

    The Situation

    What this Presentation does, therefore, is set-up a situation – the behaviour of the aforementioned “unruly youth” – which students have to explain using a sociological approach of their choice. This can, of course, be adapted to your own particular teaching by, for example, asking different students to apply different approaches (Marxism, Feminism, etc.) and bringing their ideas together as a class. Alternatively, you may want the whole class to focus on a particular approach, such as Right Realism.

    Where the exam / specification situation is one that’s simply described, either in words (exam) or words and pictures (specification) this version takes advantage of PowerPoint’s ability to display video – in this instance a relatively short (2 minutes 30 seconds) piece of film designed to do a couple of things:

    The first minute of the film “sets-the-scene” by describing some aspects of a fictional town (“Castleton”) in terms of its broad social and economic make-up.

    The remainder of the film outlines some of the “problems of unruly youth” whose behaviour students will have to explain by applying a criminological approach of their choice to the events they have viewed.

    Aside from describing a situation, the film contains a number of simple visual and verbal clues students can pick-up on and use when they come to the “Report Stage” of the presentation. It includes, for example, the idea of social and material deprivation (Marxism), economic strains (Functionalism), Masculinity (Feminism) and broken windows (Right Realism). (more…)

    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.

     

    The Sociological Detectives: DEA

    Monday, October 31st, 2016

    In splashthis sim students take the role of “sociological detectives” investigating the reasons for differential educational achievement. Broadly, the sim involves:

  • identifying a range of theories that can be used to explain differential educational achievement across and within categories of class, gender and ethnicity.
  • identifying and collecting evidence that can be used to test (support or refute) the various theories examined.

  • The accompanying PowerPoint is designed to help you develop this structure and while it’s not essential it can help to both set and explain the scene by introducing the idea of suspects, theory development and evidence gathering at the core of the sim.

    (more…)

    7 Sims in 7 Days – Day 7: Cards, Cakes and Class

    Monday, October 3rd, 2016

    sim_cakesThe final offering in what no-one’s calling “The Wonderful Week of Sims” is designed to give students practical experience of social inequality based on the unequal distribution of economic resources (wealth) – the eponymous “cake” of the title. While this can be an end in itself – a central part of the sim is the physical segregation of students within the same classroom – it can also be the building block for an examination of the possible consequences of such inequality.

    (more…)

    Seven Sims in Seven Days – Day 5: Trial by Jury

    Saturday, October 1st, 2016

    sim_trailAs with some of the others in this series, “Trial by Jury” is a building block sim that gives you a basic template that can be used to organise and run a wide range of possible simulations. In basic terms if there’s an area of the Sociology / Psychology course that involves comparing and contrasting two opposing viewpoints it can be adapted to the Trial by Jury format using this template.

    As a way of exampling this the package uses the (sociological) example of “Positivism On Trial” (effectively a debate between Positivism / Interpretivism at As-level).

    This is quite a time-consuming simulation and it’s probably best-suited to occasional use (unless you’ve completely flipped your classroom, in which case it’s something you could frequently use).

    For example, it could be used at the end of a specific teaching session (such as “secularisation”) as a way of bringing all the different arguments and evaluations together. Alternatively you might find it useful for a series of “end of course” sessions as a way of structuring student revision.

    Seven Sims in Seven Days – Day 1: The Urinal Game

    Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

    Background

    We can illustrate the idea of cultural learning (and show how the concepts of roles, values and norms are inter-related into the bargain) using Proxemic theory – the study of how people understand and use space in a cultural context – originally developed by Hall (1966).

    sctv_hallAlthough we are born with the ability to understand notions of space (our eyes, for example, are positioned in such a way as to create three-dimensional images that our brains have the ability to process accurately) Hall argued different cultures create different ways of “seeing space” – the most familiar example, for our current purpose perhaps, being the idea of personal space (although it’s possible to look beyond the individual to understand how whole societies organise and utilise space in culturally-specific ways – in terms of things like urban development, housing, transport and so forth).

    Personal space can be defined in terms of an area (or “bubble”) that surrounds each of us which has a couple of important characteristics:

    Firstly, the extent of our personal space varies both between cultures (in countries like England or the United States, for example, people generally like to maintain a greater sense of personal distance from others than they do in countries like France or Brazil) and within cultures – such as gender differences in our society (two women talking to each other, for example, tend to maintain less personal space between them than two men in the same situation).

    Secondly, the space that surrounds us is considered to be “our property” and entry into it is regulated in various ways – something we can relate to different roles, values and norms using Hall’s (1996) classic example of “strangers waiting for a train”.

    When waiting for a train at a railway station we are (for the sake of illustration) playing the role of “stranger” to the people who are also waiting for the train. In this situation the role, as with any other role we play, is surrounded by certain values (beliefs about how we should play this role). In our culture there are a range of values that apply (we should not behave towards strangers as if they were our closest friend in the world, for example) and in this particular example one of the values we bring to bear is that of privacy and, more specifically, the notion of personal space as a way of maintaining privacy. In other words, when playing the role of stranger we value the cultural concept of privacy, both for our own purposes and those of others.

    In this respect we understand that privacy is an important concept in our culture and we should not act in ways that invade – uninvited – the privacy of others (just as we expect them not to invade our privacy). One way this value (or general behavioural guideline) is expressed is through various norms (or specific behavioural guidelines) that apply in particular situations.

    In this instance, one norm that reflects the role of stranger and the value of privacy is that we do not sit too close to strangers; we do not, in short, invade their personal space. There are, of course, additional norms we could identify in this situation; we do not, for example, deliberately touch the people we are sitting next to, nor do we generally interact with them – although this may depend on things like the amount of time we are forced to spend sitting next to someone. We may, for example, make “general conversation” (to complain about having to wait, for example) although, once again, we need to avoid becoming too intimate or personal – a stranger doesn’t want to hear your life story. Such “conversational gambits” also have an important normative function here because they establish a “common ground” between strangers forced to sit together – we observe, for example, the norms of conversation and recognition in a way that is generally neutral (“how much longer are we going to have to wait”?) and which establishes clear behavioural boundaries.

    If you want to simulate the cultural significance of personal space, it’s relatively quick and easy to do in a couple of ways:

    1. Pair off your students and ask them to stand next to or facing each other much as they would if they were in some outside location. If you make a rough note of the distance between them you should find a consistent distance across all pairs.
    2. A variation here is to pair girls and boys separately to test if there are gendered special distances (you should find there are).

    If you want to do this in a more-structured way use these instructions (sorry but I don’t know the source):

    “Using masking tape, place an X on the floor. Attach measuring tapes to the floor around 6 inches away from the X so that the increasing measurements go away from X. Ask one student volunteer to stand on the X. Following the measuring tape, have another student volunteer walk slowly toward the student in the centre. Instruct the student in the centre to say “stop” when the approaching person is close enough that they start to feel uncomfortable.

    Record the distance. Then do the activity again from the sides and back.

    Ask students: What is the standard shape of the individual’s personal space requirements? What factors may influence the amount of personal space we need? Will there be cultural differences? How does personal space affect interpersonal relationships?

    The Simulation

    A more-structured way to achieve a similar end is to play Paul’s “Urinal Game”, the basic rules of which are outlined below.

    (more…)

    Seven Sims in Seven Days: The Introduction

    Monday, September 26th, 2016

    I’ve long been interested in the idea of using simulations (and games – see Disclaimer below) as teaching tools – there were a couple of online efforts I created many moons ago when the Internet was still young and frames seemed such a good idea:

    1. Education and Differential Achievement: The Sociological Detective was an attempt to embed the idea that “studying sociology” at A-level can be a bit like being a detective – you identify “suspects”, develop theories to explain social phenomena and collect / evaluate different types of evidence. I’ve since had to retire the original version, but it’s spirit has since been resurrected here if you’re interested.
    1. Crime, Deviance and Methods: The Great Chocolate Bar Theft, also long-since retired, was an online crime and methods sim that I might, at some point in the future, resurrect (but don’t bet on it).

    One of the problems, aside from having the time and ability to think them up, has always been the difficulty of finding materials that not only delight, surprise and occasionally befuddle students but which also have teaching content that repays all the time and effort required to set-up and use them effectively in the classroom.

    The Internet has, to some extent, made this easier in terms of finding stuff and it has to be noted that just about everything that’s presented here has been invented by someone other than myself. Where I know who created the materials they’re given appropriate credit but in some instances I don’t have the first idea about the identity of their creator, so if you are that person I’d just like to say “Sorry”, “Thank You” and “I’ve hidden all my money in off-shore trusts, so don’t bother suing”.

    (more…)

    Debating Deviance

    Saturday, April 2nd, 2016

    on trial cover

    One of the interesting things about the sociology of crime and deviance at a-level is that it invariably throws-up a range of what we might term “moral dilemmas” – acts that, while they might strictly and legally be called crimes, may be motivated more by an altruistic aesthetic – such as the desire to “right a moral wrong” or provide a wider community benefit – rather than, for example, simple personal gain.

    These moral dilemmas – such as the one provided by this article (This student put 50 million stolen research articles online. And they’re free) – offer a good opportunity for students to debate the concept of deviance on a number of levels, such as:

    • how and why is it socially constructed?

    • deviance and power considered in terms of how, why and in whose interests laws are created, policed and enforced

    • deviance and harm (such as financial, personal and wider-social)

    (more…)

    Media Representations: Part 5 – Postmodernism

    Saturday, June 20th, 2015

    While Marxist and Feminist perspectives generally discuss media representations in terms of how and why they misrepresent particular groups, Baudrillard (1995) argues representations shouldn’t be considered in terms of whether something is fairly or unfairly represented; this follows because, he argues, how something is represented is its reality.

    In this respect conventional approaches to understanding media representations suggest the media re-presents something like ‘news’ in a way that’s somehow different to the original event; ‘something happens’ that is then described (re-presented) to an audience. Conventionally, therefore, sociologists contrast ‘the real’ – the ‘thing’ that ‘happened’ – with its representation and examine the media to see if they can disentangle the real from the not real.

    Baudrillard however argues “reality” is experienced differently depending on who you are, where you are and your source of information. Every audience, therefore, constructs its own version of reality and everything represented in the media is experienced as multiple realities, all of which – and none of which – are real; everything is simply a representation of something seen from different viewpoints. Thus, the ‘reality of anything’ can’t be found in any single definitive account or experience; that which we can “real”, therefore, has no definitive or essential features that distinguish it from how it is represented.

    (more…)

    Psychology: Teacher’s Toolkit

    Thursday, June 11th, 2015

    The Teacher’s Toolkit grew out of discussions and contributions on the otoolkitld TES Psychology forum and while it’s been through a number of revisions this, I think, is probably the latest (2013) version.

    In basic terms it’s a massive (100-odd page) compendium of teaching ideas and activities aimed at A-level Psychology and loosely arranged around categories like:

  • Lesson Notes
  • Starters and Plenaries
  • Introductions and Simulations
  • Studies and Theories
  • Strategies (self-and peer assessment etc.).

  • The vast majority of the activities are simple and straightforward to grasp and put into practice (a typical activity is effectively explained in a short paragraph) and the range of the collective contributions from numerous teachers is truly impressive.

    Download Toolkit

    Sociologists?

    While the Toolkit is aimed at Psychology teachers (the clue is in the title) and some of the activities are aimed specifically at teaching and learning explicitly psychological theories, concepts and studies, there’s still a great deal here that Sociology teachers can take from the Toolkit (albeit with the need for a bit of tinkering to orientate activities towards sociological interests and concerns).