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Visual Media: Study Booklet

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

Following hard on the heels of the previous “visual media” offering comes this 18-page Pdf Study Booklet.

Media Booklet: click to download

It’s packed to the rafters with information presented in a variety of simple, visually-attractive, ways under six main headings with sub-headings as required:

  • New Media: changes, digital optimism and pessimism
  • Ownership and Control: trends, patterns, theories.
  • Globalisation: cultural changes, imperialism, postmodernism.
  • New Values: bias, moral panics.
  • Representations: class, age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality.
  • Effects: passive and active audiences.
  • As with the previous offerings, there are no indications in the metadata about who created the Booklet, but thank you mysterious, anonymous, person anyway.

    Visual Media: Theories and Representations

    Saturday, May 16th, 2020

    As you probably know by the number of blog posts featuring the word “visual“, I’m a sucker for anything that smacks of “visual sociology” (the clue is probably in what I do…) and I recently chanced upon what I think are two very neat “picture-type” pdf resources covering:

    Media Theories

    1. Media Theories: the material here involves a page on Identity theory and two further pages on representations of youth.

    2. Media Representations: this is organised around 4 categories (Gender, Age, Sexuality and Ethnicity) and consists of a page outlining different theories and a further page packed chock-full with examples of each.

    The materials don’t go into any great depth or detail but I like the way they’ve been constructed and presented (particularly the media theory resources).

    You can use them as a way of presenting some introductory information about both topics or as an example of the type of visual notes students might be encouraged to create for revision purposes.

    Visual Aids for Sampling and Statistics

    Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

    Finding ways to introduce stuff like sampling (in Sociology) and statistical analysis (in Psychology) can, at the best of times, be difficult, so any type of visual aid, from simple graphics to video walkthroughs, is likely to be a useful time-saver for teachers and students alike.

    A Visual Aid.
    Not Actual Size.
    Thankfully.

    As luck would have it, the two web pages detailed below contain a set of visual representations of key sampling and statistical terms and calculations.

    1. Terms involves a range of simple visual explanations of key statistical terms.

    Most (Double Blind, Null Hypothesis…) will be relevant to psychology students but a fair few (different Types of Sampling and Data, Observation, Hypothesis…) should be of interest to sociologists.

    Each key term is given a very short overview, a slightly-longer explanation and a much more useful graphical representation. The latter is probably going to be of most interest to teachers as a way of providing a ready-made visual aid for further elaboration and explanation.

    2. Calculations are generally aimed at psychology students and basically involve short video walkthroughs of statistical tests (such as Mann Whitney and Chi-Squared).

    The videos are similar to the Psychology: Step-By-Step films we’ve produced in the past only not as good. Obviously.

    Although they are free.

    Which is something.

    You pays your money.

    Or not as the case may be.

    Visual Notes

    Tuesday, April 30th, 2019
    Family
    Families and Households

    The Sociology Guy has been busy putting together what he calls “quick glance revision notes” for his web site (which, apropos of nothing, is well worth a visit because it contains lots of good stuff) – what might be described as visual notes or mini learning tables / knowledge organisers tied to a specific idea, topic or theme.

    And if this sounds like I’m struggling to do them justice, it’s probably easier just to look at the accompanying pictures because they’ll give you a much better idea about what’s involved.

    And this, in a roundabout way, is probably as it should be, given the claim that “Research suggests that notes that are vibrant, colourful and have pictures or illustrations are 40% more likely to be recalled by students”.

    While I’m not sure what this research might be, the idea does have an initial face validity, in that the combination of text and relevant graphics should help students make evocative connections.

    Anyway, be that as it may, the Notes look attractive and deliver just the right gobbets (that’s actually a word) of information for revision purposes across 6 current areas:

    There’s a Lot more to Follow…

    Visualising Social Mobility: A Mountain to Climb?

    Thursday, September 27th, 2018

    Broadly-speaking, the underlying idea here is to both make the study of social mobility slightly less dull and to replace a somewhat hackneyed, not-to-say, highly misleading visualisation of mobility (“a ladder”) with something a little more dynamic and visually thought-provoking (“climbing a mountain”).

    Although this post could be more accurately described as a “Lesson Suggestion” rather than a “Lesson Plan”, I’ve included some ideas for how you might be able to turn it into the latter.

    One of the most common ways to visualise social mobility – movement up or down a class structure – is to think in terms of “a ladder”. It’s an analogy that’s not just embedded in the Sociology classroom but arguably in everyday political discourse too.

    And while it’s relatively easy to understand, evocative and in some ways self-explanatory, it’s also deeply flawed, even as a simple visual guide to understanding the mechanics of social mobility, for a number of reasons:

    • It’s overly-individualistic in the sense of representing mobility as the product of individual effort, grit and determination. While these qualities may (or may not) be important, they present a one-dimensional view, focused solely on the individual that ignores both wider social factors involved in mobility (family, education…) and any sense of a problematic class structure that actively militates against mobility for some social groups.

    • The ladder is presented as a neutral tool, one that simply facilitates social mobility.

    • The ladder exists independently of those who use it. It is equally available to all and the most able will utilise it most successfully to climb to the higher levels of the class structure.

    • The class structure itself is akin to something like a pyramid, smooth and increasingly elevated.

    • It encourages students to focus on upward mobility – the ability to climb, rung-by-rung, to “the top”.

    There are, of course, many more reasons for rejecting the ladder analogy as a way of visualising and teaching social mobility, but you probably get the idea.

    (more…)

    Visual Sociology: Picturing Inequality

    Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

    Equality of Opportunity?

    As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m a big fan of using graphic material (pictures and illustrations rather than examples of extreme physical violence) to both illustrate sociological ideas and encourage students to think a little more deeply about such ideas and how they can be applied to increase their depth of sociological knowledge and understanding. I’ve tried to use this technique to good effect in:

    • blog posts – visualising strain theory is a particular favourite
    • teaching – one of my favourite “visual lessons” was to use optical illusions to introduce and illustrate the idea of different sociological approaches – how could people look at the same thing (“society”) yet see it so differently?
    • my work as a video producer.

    In this respect my argument is that the right picture can be a simple and evocative way of getting students to both understand and think about the ramifications of certain ideas across a range of sociological areas:

    • Education and differential achievement.
    • Deviance and rates of arrest / imprisonment.
    • Social inequality and various forms of discrimination.
    • Theory and concepts like economic, cultural and social capital.

    The picture above, for example, can be used to get students to think beyond relatively simple and straightforward ideas about class, gender or ethic discrimination (it’s morally wrong…) in order to explore more complex sociological ideas about the concept of equality of opportunity: what, for example, does it really mean and can it be used by powerful groups to actually embed greater inequality into social structures?

    (more…)

    Visualising Routine Activities Theory

    Friday, July 7th, 2017

    Routine Activities Theory has been described (by me, just now) as one of the key theoretical contributions to the development of Situational Crime Prevention strategies and techniques. In broad terms it sees crime as the outcome of both “opportunity” (Mayhew, 1976; Clarke, 1988) and “routine activities” (Cohen and Felson 1979) and represents, for Felson and Boba (2010), “A theory of how crime changes in response to larger shifts in society”.

    While the general theory can appear quite complex to students – and contains numerous developments and qualifications – at root it offers a fairly simple outline of the relationship between, on the one hand, potential offenders and, on the other, the social controls that may exist to deter offending.

    The objective of this PowerPoint Presentation, therefore, is to provide a visual representation of the factors that contribute to both offending and crime prevention, within the context of routine activities theory.

    Visualising Strain Theory

    Monday, March 27th, 2017

    Although examples of Merton’s “Responses to Strain” are fairly straightforward I always think it helps students if they can visualise the basic idea involved – something this simple image I came across on Twitter (apologies, but I don’t know who created it) does very well, I think.

    So, on the basis you can take a good thing and make it even better (probably) by adding a bit of movement I thought it would be helpful to create a PowerPoint Presentation based around the graphic (and also to add some “ends / means” text into the mix; mainly because I can, but also because it’s helpful to associate different forms of response with different combinations of cultural goals and structural conduits).

    The PowerPoint has both click-to-advance and auto-advance versions and its main use, as I see it, is as a visual teaching aid when introducing and discussing response to strain. There’s also, if you prefer, a video version of the Presentation.

    (more…)

    Experiments in Visual Sociology

    Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

    media_ownAs you might expect from someone who makes films I like to explore visual ways of adding content to what can be fairly plain text information and this particular project is the result of just such an exploration. The objective here was to distil essential course information into a series of simple tableaux that highlight the information without necessarily distracting from it.

    Whether this works or not is probably something for you to decide and you can check-out three examples in terms of the following media modules: 

    Defining The Mass Media: Traditional definitions of “mass media”; Old mass media / old media; New mass media / new media; Characteristics of the new mass media.

    Ownership and Control 1: Key Concepts in the Ownership and Control debate: Media Ownership: State and Private; Owners and Controllers; Concentration: Product and Information Diversity; Conglomeration and Diagonal Integration.

    Ownership and Control 2: Theories of Ownership and Control: Instrumental Marxism; Neo (Hegemonic) Marxism; Pluralism.

     

    Visualising Class Structures

    Sunday, September 18th, 2016

    class_coverVisualising Class Structures is a PowerPoint Presentation, designed for whole-class teaching, that features visual representations of ten different class structures / variations,  accompanied by some of the key ideas involved in each classification. Brief background Notes for teachers are also included with each slide.

    The current presentation has been updated (2019) to include Savage’s “7 Class Model”, most notable for its introduction of the “Precariat” and construction around 3 types of capital (economic, social and cultural). 

    There’s also now a further updated version available that features a user-friendly menu system (see below).

    The slides are intended to be a visual backdrop teachers can use to introduce / discuss different class structures: from the classic Pyramid or Pentagon, through Neo-Marxist relational structures to contemporary (a little bit postmodern) idea like Polarised Convergence and Flatlining.

    Update

    Click to download Menu-based Presentation
    Now with Added Menu!

    The original Presentation was simply a set of slides you advanced one after the other, something that was functional but limited. If you didn’t want to discuss particular types of class structure you either had to manually edit them out of the Presentation or click-on-through until you reached the slide you wanted to discuss.

    While, quite frankly, this was no biggie, I thought it might be helpful to add a menu to the Presentation so that you can select the slides you want your students to see.

    To make the menu less intrusive, you can make it appear as-and-when it’s needed (just click the star at the top of the screen to make it appear, click inside the menu box to make it disappear).

    Introducing Sociology: Video as a visual dimension for teaching about norms

    Thursday, March 10th, 2016

    If you want to add a visual dimension to your students’ understanding of norms the Can of Worms YouTube Channel has a selection of short films you can use as illustrative material. There are quite a few films from which to choose, so it probably pays to be selective.

    The focus, as ever, is on using norm-breaking behaviour (“breeching experiments”) to illustrate the existence, importance and effects of norms on our everyday lives.

    Taking things a little further, some of the clips can be used to illustrate concepts like the definition of a situation (how people become confused when they define a situation as one thing but other people define as something else) and Merton’s use of anomie (how people respond to situations in which norms clearly apply but which they can’t, for whatever reason, understand or follow).

    If you’re looking for a more-general introduction to sociology and sociological thinking, have a look at our Introducing Sociology films – What is Sociology? is available for digital download or as part of our new Introduction to Sociology DVD

    Visual Sociology: Macro and Micro Perspectives

    Sunday, March 6th, 2016

    Revisiting my YouTube Channel reminded me of this “oldie” (you can tell its age by the 4:3 perspective – widescreen was for those with fancy monitors) that I cobbled together from bits and pieces of film that had been left lying around.

    I quite like it and I think it gets the job done. I may have posted it before, but what the heck…

    Revision Mapping Research Methods

    Sunday, October 31st, 2021

    While I’ve previously posted a Revision Map on Sociological Perspectives I never, for some reason, got around to posting further Maps (at least, not in pdf format – there have been Flipbook versions).

    Until now.

    In order to remedy the omission, therefore, I thought I’d start with a range of Maps dedicated to Research Methods. Although they were originally constructed around an old(ish) A-level Specification it probably doesn’t matter overmuch because when it comes to Methods there’s only so much you can ask and most Specifications – A-level and High School, English or American – cover much the same sort of stuff. This means the content’s still generally relevant to contemporary Specifications.

    Revision Mapping, in case you’re not familiar with the concept, is based on identifying keywords in a particular context and linking them to further keywords to build a highly-structured map of a specific concept, theory or method.

    (more…)

    AllSociology Podcasts

    Monday, April 12th, 2021

    I stumbled across Ben Hewitson’s Sociology Podcasts via his Allsociology Instagram page – the latter’s well worth a look for the free Revision Card Thingies (they’re probably not called that, but it was the best I could come up with) that highlight some key ideas in a-level sociology in a very visual way – and what’s on offer is well worth a listen.

    A Revision Card Thingy
    (as it must now be Officially Called).

    The Podcasts have been going since October 2019 and there are currently 19 episodes available, varying in length from around 30 – 60 minutes depending on the topic. The latter include revision-type discussions on crime and deviance, religion, stratification, social policy, education and family life, but there are also a few that dip into areas like sociology at university, applying sociology to contemporary issues (such as Coronavirus), common student exam mistakes and more.

    The podcasts generally consist of Ben taking around different aspects of a topic, either alone or in tandem with fellow sociologist Leanne Symonds, and while this may sound a bit dull, it actually isn’t. The two presenters work well with each other, bouncing ideas around, with one or the other able to chip-in when the threat of dead air raises its ugly little head. Which, somewhat surprisingly given the fact each podcast is done, as it says on the tin, in “1 Take” (i.e. no editing), doesn’t seem to happen very often, if at all (you’ll have to listen to find out…).

    The format’s fun, occasionally funny and generally informative – I found myself happily listening to the full 40 minutes of Episode 17 on Crime and Deviance that covered definitions of crime and deviance, the social construction of crime / situational deviance, the criminal justice system, white collar crime, green crime and more.

    And given that I’m definitely not the target audience (that would be a-level sociology students) the format’s clearly got something going for it.

    So, if you’re in the market for pointing your students in the direction of some free, revision-type, information, the podcasts are broadcast on Spotify (although there are plenty of other options available) and while you can sign-up to the service if you want – you’re probably aware there’s a free version “supported by advertising” – there’s no obligation to do so.

    Which is nice.

    Reflective Revision Diaries

    Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

    A Reflective Revision Diary is a way to organise student revision: to make it more manageable and, with a bit of effort and dedication, easier, less boring and consequently more effective.

    Diary Templates

    Although ideas about revision – what it involves and how to do it – have generally moved-on over the past 25 years or so, one idea that has tended to persist is when to revise.

    For most students (and probably teachers too) “revision” is something that’s (reluctantly) done between the end of a course and the start of their exams. For A-level students this optimistically means 9 – 12 weeks to revise 3 subjects that have been studied for 2 years. In Sociology, for example, this may come down to 3 weeks to revise 6 modules.

    This, by any stretch, is a lot of work.

    And too much work + too little time leads to the adoption of revision techniques – such as passively reading through folders of Notes – that take the path of least resistance. They give the impression of covering the required work while not being particularly effective as a way of actually remembering stuff. Which, when all’s-said-and-done, is probably the point.

    One way to resolve this problem is that rather than condensing a large amount of work into a small amount of time is to spread revision out over the duration of the course. In other words, to encourage students to start their revision at the start of their course and carry it through until the end of the course. At this point they’ll already have done two year’s worth of revision for A-level and they can use the time until the start of the exam much more productively polishing-up on what they already (mostly) know rather than trying to relearn something they did 18 months ago and haven’t looked-at since.

    In a nutshell, the idea here is that when it comes to revision “little and often” pays much higher dividends than “a lot all at once”.

    To understand this involves grasping a couple of important ideas:

    Firstly, the need to change how teachers and students perceive the status of revision: to see it as an integral part of day-to-day teaching and learning rather than something discrete tacked-on at the end of the course once official teaching is over.

    Secondly, the need to operationalise this idea through a coherent and consistent approach to the place of revision in the curriculum. In other words, just as general teaching is organised in particular ways to help students grasp key ideas, revision needs to be integrated into the teaching programme as part of the daily routine.

    Both of these ideas involve teachers and students working together to develop an organised approach to revision.

    And this is where a Revision Diary could help.

    Revision Diaries…

    Using Analogies: How Inequalities Create Inequality

    Sunday, February 28th, 2021

    This Lesson Outline is designed (yes, really) as a kind of skeleton structure you can flesh-out with ideas and information as and how you see fit. In other words, while it provides a basic structure for a lesson it doesn’t necessarily tell you what to teach, which means it’s not something you can just take off-the-shelf and use “as is”. Having said that, it does make for something that’s adaptable to a range of different lessons.

    Most, admittedly, centred around notions of poverty and social inequality, but, hey, you can’t have everything.

    Preamble…

    I’ve previously drawn attention to the usefulness of analogies in sociology teaching (Using Analogies in Sociology, Teaching Perspectives: Society is Like, Different types of Society), most-latterly in relation to how we can think about social mobility, moving away from a conventional “ladder analogy” towards one – climbing a mountain – that I think better reflects both the daily reality of social mobility and how it can be conceptualised for students in terms of both:

  • social action: the idea that mobility can have an individual dimension, one that reflects, for example, both the ability to rise above different types and degrees of disadvantage through a single-minded determination to succeed (upward mobility) or the inability to exploit the advantages of a privileged family and background (downward mobility).
  • This dimension, while important to keep in mind because it reflects the idea of individuals struggling to come-to-terms with – and sometimes overcoming – the problems created by societal forces largely beyond their individual ability to control, leads into the concept of:

  • social structures: the idea there are social forces surrounding the individual that place barriers in the path of their mobility, or indeed open-up gateways to such mobility. These forces – economic, political and cultural – can be brought to life for students through the mountain-climbing analogy.
  • This dimension is important because concepts like social mobility, poverty and social inequality are frequently conceptualised in our culture in terms of “individuals” standing-apart in glorious isolation from the economic, political and cultural backgrounds against which their lives are framed. These concepts, in other words, are frequently individualised – lack of mobility or poverty, for example, is framed in terms of individual failings – and the role of social structures systematically downplayed.

    We can see this most clearly in relation to the “ladder analogy” of social mobility, where “the ladder” is simply conceived as a neutral mechanism for climbing up-or-down the social scale – and since it neither hinders nor facilitates mobility, the ability to climb up or down is reduced to something like individual determination or motivation.

    If we replace this with a more realistic “mountain analogy” the reverse is true: movement up-or-down the social scale is hindered, blocked or facilitated by a wide range of structural factors – and this is where we can develop the analogy slightly to take-in concepts of poverty and social inequality.

    And to understand how this occurs we can use the analogy to construct a couple of thought experiments that can be carried-out either face-to-face in a classroom or, particularly useful in these Covid times, online.

    Setting the Scene…

    Research Methods: Triangulation

    Thursday, January 7th, 2021

    Over the past few years the concept of triangulation has become increasingly central to an understanding of both research methodology and methods – their strengths, weaknesses and limitations in particular – at High School and A level and it’s a topic I’ve already addressed a few times in one form or another.

    Download the Abridged version…

    If you want to check out these resources, you’ll find both textbook chapters (Of Methods and Methodology: 5. Triangulation, The Research Process: Part 4) and Factsheets dealing with different aspects of the general concept – and if these aren’t enough to satisfy your hunger for “Quality Triangulation Resources” (it says here, admittedly because I wrote it) it’s your lucky day because I’ve chanced across an interesting document from the UNAIDS Monitoring and Evaluation Unit you might find useful.

    The pdf document – An Introduction to Triangulation – broadly follows Denzin’s (1970) triangulation typography as it looks at four general questions:

  • What is triangulation?
  • What are the different types of triangulation?
  • What are the strengths and weakness of the four types of triangulation?
  • Why do triangulation?
  • As an added bonus there are short sections on different types of data you might find helpful, either in the context of triangulation or research methods generally:

  • The differences between quantitative and qualitative data
  • Quantitative and qualitative data sources
  • Determining the usefulness of data
  • As you’ll notice if you decide to download the document, this is an abridged version that just focuses on the topics listed above.

    The full document is available as an online flipbook if you want it but unless you’re after a very short quiz and a quick glossary of key terms there’s not a lot extra to be had.

    Update

    If you want a visual complement to the above our latest (2021) short film introduces students to Denzin’s four types of triangulation:

    • data
    • researcher
    • theoretical
    • methodological.

    The film – previewed below – outlines and illustrates each type using an example drawn from real-world sociological research and concludes with a brief outline and assessment of the broad benefits and limitations of each of these different types.

    Race and the Criminal Justice System

    Friday, December 18th, 2020

    Official statistics on the relationship between “race” (ethnicity) and the criminal justice system in England and Wales, as you probably secretly suspect, are the kinds of things that teachers and students tend to file under the “worthy but dull” heading.

    About half the complete infographic…

    On the one hand it’s a relationship that’s useful to recognise and broadly understand as part of a crime and deviance module.

    On the other it tends to be really dry and difficult to digest.

    When even the Executive Summary (the short introduction everyone skims through because they really can’t face trawling through the full Report, but which gives us a nice warm feeling inside, safe in the pretence that at least we tried) tends to be just a long list of statistical observations there’s not really much incentive for teachers – let alone their students – to take the time to get to grips with this information.

    Which is a shame, because you know there’s actually a lot of good stuff in the Report, if only someone would take the time and effort to present it in a way that’s both short and visual.

    Happily for everyone concerned that’s just what the Ministry of Justice (something that, in passing, sounds as though it should be headed-up by Judge Dread) has decided to do by producing a nice Infographic that contains all the information you’re likely to need to keep your students up-to-date with the latest developments in all things “Race” and, indeed, “Criminal Justice”.

    Which is nice.

    Despite their scary-sounding name.

    Sociology Now: another free sociology text

    Tuesday, October 27th, 2020
    Click to download…

    Sociology Now is an American textbook currently on its 3rd edition of which this, probably-needless-to-say-but-I-will-anyway, isn’t it. Instead we have what may or may not be the 2nd edition hailing from 2012.

    I say “may or may not” because it describes itself as the “2010 Census edition”.

    And while this, in the words of the late, great, Ultravox “Means Nothing To Me”, I’m guessing it probably Means Something to Someone.

    In which case. You’re Welcome.

    I don’t know why I haven’t given this textbook a previous write-up (although it’s always possible I have and don’t remember doing it) but it seems to be a fairly standard text that, design-wise, occupies that slightly-weird space between tradition and modernity. In other words, there’s a lot of text on the page but, for some unknown reason that page is two-columns.

    One of which is white space.

    And sometimes there are pictures.

    And also some odd “space-age” box-outs labelled things like “MyLab” (which is either Pearson’s way of trying to sell teachers and students More Stuff by setting-up a proprietary Learning Management System (LMS) or a welcome extension of the teaching and learning experience. I’m sort-of leaning towards the latter).

    These look as though they were designed by someone like me (a, shall-we-say, enthusiastic amateur) rather than a professional designer.

    In fact, the whole book looks like something I’d design in Affinity Publisher. And that’s not really a recommendation (unless you’ve got far better design skills than me, in which case it’s actually a top piece of software).

    Once you get past the rather primitive visuals and general design the text covers pretty much all of what you’d expect from an A-level / High School / College book (from culture and society through family and media to crime, religion and science) in an accessible and fairly even-handed way.

    And while the emphasis is, quite reasonably, on American society and culture there’s still plenty here that will be useful for a European audience – particularly if you’re looking for a relatively-recent, free textbook to supplement the stuff you’re currently using.

    Family: Personal Life Perspective Resources

    Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

    Whatever your particular view of the Personal Life perspective in relation to families and households (as an exciting, contemporary, forward-looking development in our understanding of family dynamics, a slightly-cynical attempt to breathe new life into tired old social action / interactionist perspectives by rebranding them as something “new, exciting and cutting-edge” or merely another attempt to confuse the hell out of teachers and their students), if it’s on the Spec. – as either a semi-autonomous section, a la AQA, or folded into broader ideas about family diversity, roles and relationships – then, like it or lump it, it’s got to be covered.

    By-and-large this general perspective, as befits its social action antecedents, generally focuses (at least in textbooks) on inclusive forms of family definition that, following Goldthorpe (1987), argue we should define and understand family groups and structures as “complex relational networks” rather than as a specific set of clearly-definable:

  • attributes, such as “common residence” coupled with “economic co-operation”, or
  • relationships, such as “parents and their children”.
  • Contemporary families, in other words, represent a fluid set of social relationships and processes based around relationships that involve labels, such as mother, father, aunt and uncle, values, such as the belief dual parenting is superior to single parenting, norms, such as living together through marriage or cohabitation and functions, such as primary socialisation.

    This latter idea – that something called “a family” can be structurally defined in terms of the specific functions it performs – is something that’s important not to lose sight of when evaluating “personal life” perspectives. This is particularly pertinent when some textbooks over-differentiate concepts of “structure” and “action” when trying to show how “contemporary personal life perspectives” are different to “classic structural approaches”. Social actions, however you want to define them, always relate to some sort of structure…

    Keeping this in mind, I’ve managed to cobble together unearth a few resources you might find helpful when teaching this particular topic:

    Resources…

    Podcasts with Pictures: Esher Sociology

    Thursday, October 15th, 2020

    For some reason I keep stumbling across teacher-created YouTube accounts and the latest I’ve tripped-over is from Esher Sociology – a Channel that currently consists of 50+ films posted over the past 4 years, although the last was 7 months ago.

    Whether this represents a final roll of the dice or just a (summer-long) hiatus, only time will tell.

    Be that as it may, this decidedly no-frills approach to film-making offers a wide range of online lectures across a number of topics – Religion, Crime, Theory, Family and Education – the majority of which sit in the 15 – 30-minute time slot.

    The exception to this general rule is a series of “One Minute Key Concepts” slides focused on a single concept (meritocracy, anomie, social solidarity – there are currently 6 in all) that come-in at around 60 seconds. It’s an interesting idea that I wish we’d thought of (Oh. Hang on a Just A Minute…) and it generally works quite well for something that consists of a single screen of text.

    The main films themselves are fairly standard for the “podcasts with pictures” genre insofar as they consist of a series of narrated PowerPoint slides with bits of extra commentary on the side. The narration is either “a bit shouty” or “satisfyingly authoritative” depending on how you view (hear?) these things.

    One-Minute Anomie…

    Although the films are perfectly serviceable as online lectures students can dip into and out of at their leisure, some run to over 30 minutes and seemed, to me at least, a little heavy-going for a single-sitting: half-an-hour can seem a Very Long Time when you’re basically just listening to a teacher talk about something like Marxist and Functionalist Theories of the Family with very little visual stimulation to lighten the load.

    Technically the films are a little rough around the edges with some annoying sound glitches at times and while they arguably contain a lot of text / information to take on board, some might say that too-much is better than too-little – particularly if students are watching in their own time or as part of a flipped teaching process.

    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:

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    Routine Activities Flipbook

    Sunday, August 30th, 2020

    A few months ago (around 6 to be precise) I did a blog post suggesting how you might want to evaluate a Routine Activities approach to crime.

    Then I left well alone and went away – not literally because we were well into the Covid lockdown by then – and did a load of other stuff (making films, mostly – all available at very reasonable rates if you’re at all interested in using video in the classroom) before finally getting around to converting the blog text to a Pdf format and, more-interestingly I think, to html5 Flipbook format.

    Or, to be very precise, two types of Flipbook:

    The first is your bog-standard “Read the text, look at the pictures and flip the pages” version.

    The second is as above (text, pictures, flipping…) but with the added bonus of a bit of streaming video that you – or indeed your students – can view if you want. The short clip focuses on explaining Routine Activities in a visual way in case your students need a bit of a recap before considering a couple of ways to evaluate the approach.

    And if you like the Flipbook Format (let’s be honest, who doesn’t?) and can’t wait to get your mitts on more to satisfy your hunger (or something) there are loads more available on Research Methods, Sociological Theory, Crime and Deviance, Revision and Mass Media if you follow the link.

    SHS Sociology Resources

    Friday, May 22nd, 2020

    Padlet, in case you don’t know it, is a file-sharing site that lets you organise files into Boards, the contents of which can then be shared with anyone who happens to want them.

    Topic Sheets…

    You can upload all kinds of files (such as documents or videos), or link to files on other web sites. It’s a very visual and a very handy way to organise files and would probably be my go-to site for sharing stuff if it hadn’t decided to charge for the privilege.

    While there is a free version, last time I looked it was limited to 3 Boards for new users – which sounds okay(ish), but for teachers who want to organise information into Specification categories for their students it’s not really much cop (the Padlet I’m about to feature here, for example, consists of 66 Boards…).

    And there are alternatives, such as Wakelet, that do much the same sort of thing for free.

    Nor do they display anoying and somewhat baffling messages like “Don’t forget to drink water” when I log-in.

    Like breathing, this is not something I regularly forget to do.

    Go figure.

    Just some of the Boards…

    Anyway, the purpose of this rambling preamble is simply to draw your attention to this very useful set of Padlet Sociology Boards from shs_sociology (Laura Lakin).

    The aforementioned 66 Boards are broadly organised into half-a-dozen (or “6” as it’s sometimes known) Specification-friendly categories:

  • Education
  • Family
  • Methods
  • Theory
  • Beliefs
  • Crime and Deviance
  • These, in turn, contain all kinds of resources and links that are well worth exploring, although one of the most interesting, for my money, is to the different Topic Sheets available. These are a bit like a Knowledge Organiser / Learning Table in the sense they include key concepts and their definitions, but they also expand this a little more to include stuff like links to other topics, practice questions and the like.

    If you’ve got a bit of time to spare and enjoy nosing around other people’s files these Boards are worth the effort.

    Research Methods Booklet

    Thursday, May 21st, 2020

    This Booklet was created by Steven Humphrys, based on one of Ken Browne’s many Sociology textbooks. I don’t know which one but since the Booklet’s dated 2018 I chose the most recent.

    Probably.

    I can’t keep up.

    Also, when I say “guessing”, the Word version has a bank page that says “Ken Browne Scan”, which might be considered some sort of a clue.

    Be that as it may, the content covers pretty-much everything a student would need to know and revise about (AQA) research methods (other Exam Boards are available – but since its Research Methods the content’s going to be pretty much applicable across the board, so to speak), organised into a number of discrete sections:

  • Methodologies (positivism and interpretivism)
  • Practical, Ethical and Theoretical research considerations
  • Research design
  • Methods – from experiments to observation via questionnaires.
  • Sampling techniques
  • Triangulation (although this is treated minimally. And then some).
  • Each section is generally presented in terms of two categories:

  • keywords and concepts outlines the basic information required for the exam. This includes the aforementioned (visually signposted) key ideas, some elaborative material and, where relevant, a table of advantages and disadvantages.
  • exam focus provides a range of exam practice questions.
  • As you’ll see from the image I’ve used to decorate this Post, the document formatting is a step up from most booklet’s of this type – and therein lies a slight problem. Word is predominantly a word processor (there’s a clue in there somewhere) and while it has tried to evolve over the years into what it likes to think of itself as some-sort of all-round Desktop Publishing type program, it really isn’t.

    While you can DTP in Word, as this Booklet demonstrates, it’s not ideal because you have to be very careful about the options you set when anchoring text to graphics. To cut a long story short, if you get it wrong and the text moves slightly – which can happen when documents are uploaded to the web – so do the images…

    What I’ve done, therefore, is correct some of the formatting problems that appear in the original Word document and saved it as a pdf file. I haven’t changed any of the text, so both versions are identical (although I’ve removed the blank page from the pdf version). However, if you want a version to edit, choose the original Word one. If you want a version whose contents won’t slide around the page if you cough too loudly, choose the pdf one.

    Teaching Techniques: Pre-Questioning

    Friday, May 15th, 2020

    “Asking questions” of students is pretty-much a staple of any teacher’s toolkit, which is fair enough, because as Jarrett (2107) notes:

    The “testing effect” is well-established in psychology: this is the finding that answering questions about what you’ve learned leads to better retention than simply studying the material for longer. Testing is beneficial because the act of recall entrenches learned material in our memories, and when we can’t answer, this helps us make our future revision more targeted”.

    Testing, therefore, has a range of educational benefits for both teachers – such as checking how effective their teaching of a particular topic has been – and students in that answering questions appears to encourage better information retention.

    This type of practice, for reasons that are somewhat obvious, can be called post-questioning: students attempt to learn something, by viewing a short film, for example, and are then questioned on what they’ve learnt “after the event”.

    This, you may be thinking, makes sense and is how it probably should be.

    And you wouldn’t be wrong.

    There is, however, another way of asking questions that is slightly more counter-intuitive in that it involves asking questions before students have studied something. This is known as pre-questioning and, on the face of things probably sounds a little pointless.

    Bear with me however, as I outline two types of pre-questioning and suggest exactly how and why they might be useful to your teaching in different contexts.

    Type of Pre-Questioning

    Of Methods and Methodology 6 | 3: Theoretical Research Considerations

    Thursday, April 30th, 2020

    Theoretical research considerations – from methodological perspective to questions of reliability and validity – form the third part of the P.E.T. (Practical, Ethical, Theoretical) triumvirate of research considerations and they represent an important counterweight to the idea that sociological research simply involves choosing the right tool for the job.

    In everyday life, when faced with a problem like hanging a picture on a wall, most of us would reach for a hammer – mainly because we consider this the most appropriate and efficient tool for the job.

    When carrying out sociological research, therefore, it would make sense to do something similar: choose a research topic and then select the most appropriate method with which to collect data.

    Seeing research methods as tools – what Ackroyd and Hughes (1992) called the “Toolbox Approach” to sociological research – is, on one level, a perfectly sensible approach: if you want to collect quantitative data about some form of behaviour it’s not a great idea to use a method better-suited to collecting qualitative data – and vice-versa.

    (more…)

    Sociology Through Video Games

    Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

    Although I’ve long been a big fan of video games (mainly, it must be said, those that involve shooting a lot of things in what passes for their face), until recently very few games seemed to have much relevance or application to A-level Sociology per se.

    Unless you count a predilection for pretend shooting as “educational”.

    Which most people, probably rightly, would not.

    However, teachers who have given this a lot more thought than I – Matthew Noden being one – have started to see sociological teaching and learning possibilities in different types of video game, particularly more-recent offering that have started to explore economic, political and cultural questions that are generally a step-up from “Collect all the Golden Rings” or “Shoot all the Aliens in the Face”.

    As evidence of this Matthew has suggested a number of contemporary games – and their main sociological take-aways – that teachers and students might want to collectively explore.

    (more…)

    Crime as a Cause of Crime? Evaluating Routine Activities

    Tuesday, March 10th, 2020
    Click to download pdf version

    Felson and Cohen’s Routine Activities approach (1979) has arguably been one of the most-influential recent theories of crime, one that sits squarely within contemporary New Right / Realist explanations for crime and deviance.

    This post looks at a couple of useful ways students can evaluate the approach.

    A Quick Outline…

    The main objective of this post is to introduce a-level sociology students to some points of evaluation for Routine Activities and in order to do this, students need to be familiar with the basic approach. If they’re not, this quick outline should bring them up-to-speed.

    One advantage of the approach is that it’s easy to describe, at least in Felson and Cohen’s (1979) original argument that crime involves three essential elements:

    The Predatory Triangle

    1. A Suitable Target

    2. A Motivated (latterly, a Capable or Likely) Offender

    3. The absence of a Capable Guardian.

    This formulation has, over the years, seen various additions (see, for example, Clarke and Eck, 2003) although whether these represent an attempt to refine the approach or merely a papering over of the theoretical cracks, I couldn’t possibly say), but one of the most significant refinements has been to express these elements as part of what Felson and Cohen call “the Predatory Triangle”.

    While it might not seem much, this visual representation shows how the three elements are linked, such that, as they argue, a “Lack of any one of these elements is sufficient to prevent the successful completion of a direct-contact predatory crime”.

    In other words, for a crime to take place a likely offender needs to meet a suitable target in the absence of a capable guardian. Or, as Felson (1998) puts it, by way of an example:

    “A burglary needs a capable and motivated offender to find a suitable and accessible target, in the absence of anyone or anything there to keep the two apart”.

    There are a couple of points we can note in this respect:

    1. A crime occurs (or, in a weaker formulation, “is likely to occur”) when these three elements meet in time and space.

    If you want to give Routine Activities an historical context, in common with other Right Realist approaches such as Broken Windows it’s based on Ecological (how behaviour is influenced by social and physical spaces) and Control theories of behaviour. An element of Rational Choice Theory is often thrown into contemporary versions of the approach to “explain” why offenders are motivated or demotivated in relation to criminal intent.

    2. “Routine Activity” is an important part of the overall crime equation because it refers to the idea that “motivated offenders” come to identify suitable targets – and the extent to which they are protected by “capable guardians” – through their everyday experiences.

    As with most New Right / Right Realist approaches, the main focus is on crime prevention. While there is necessarily some discussion / speculation about “criminal motives” – Felson and Cohen refer, for example, to “structural conditions” that produce “motivated offenders” – there isn’t a great deal of interest in trying to explain why people are motivated towards crime.

    Crime, in this respect, is seen as a more-or-less unfortunate by-product of social and / or psychological background (depending on the particular theorist); crime is a “fact of life” and the best a society can do is to control it.

    In this respect the basic “Predatory Triangle” has clear implications for the control of crime:

    1. Motivated offenders can be deterred.

    2. Suitable targets need to be “hardened” or protected in ways that make them seem unsuitable to offenders.

    3. Capable Guardians – from the police, through careful and well-informed populations to various forms of technological guardianship (such as CCTV) – need to be extensively deployed.

    Evaluating RAT

    More Crime and Deviance Resources

    Monday, February 17th, 2020

    Following on from the previous set of crime resources, this is a mixed-bag of PowerPoint Presentations and Word documents covering various aspects of crime and deviance.

    While there is coverage of various issues and debates here, the main emphasis is on student activities and tasks – and while there’s nothing particularly spectacular or cutting-edge about the various resources there may be something here you’ll find helpful or inspiring.

    Resources…

    Psychology: Aspects of Sleep

    Monday, January 20th, 2020

    Four short teaching films, now available On Demand, covering different aspects of sleep research:

    1. Why Do We Sleep? [4.20]

    We’ll spend about a third of our lives asleep. But why?  Why do we need to sleep? Filmed at a University Sleep Laboratory, this short film demonstrates the effect of lack of sleep and why it is so essential to brain function and, ultimately, to survival.

    2. The Structure of Sleep [2.30]

    Until relatively recently what happens while we sleep was a mystery. But that changed with the advent of polysomnography, the electrical recording of brain activity. This short film provides students with a clear visual introduction to the stages of sleep. It also shows why we can’t fully understand our waking lives without understanding how sleep works.

    3. Insomnia: Causes and Treatments [5.32]

    ‘Insomnia’, says one of the respondents we interviewed, ‘can be as debilitating as a physical injury’. This film looks at the causes of insomnia, the cycle of sleeplessness, and Professor Kevin Morgan explains some of the treatments and their effectiveness.  

    4. Sleep, Memory & Learning [3.32]

    While sleep rests and repairs the brain, it continues to be active and sleep psychologists believe one of the things it’s doing is helping to consolidate memories. This short film looks at Professor Gaskell’s research comparing participants who learn in the morning and are tested in the evening with those who learn in the evening and are tested in the morning after sleeping. It also provides students with very good for advice about the best time to learn new information.   

    Sampling Selection

    Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

    Continuing the clear-out of stuff-I’ve-found-but-never-posted, today’s offering covers sampling techniques (plus a bit on questionnaire design if you’re interested).

    Sampling Jelly Babies
    Sweet.

    The 4 Presentations are from “various authors” (one of whom must remain anonymous for the deceptively-simple, but hopefully-plausible, reason that I’ve no idea who they are) and contain a variety of ideas and information – from time-saving Notes and Diagrams to practical ways to teach sampling (using everyone’s favourite jelly-like sweets).

    Click For the Presentations

    One Pagers

    Wednesday, November 27th, 2019
    Click to download Perspectives One Pager
    Perspectives One Pager

    The basic idea underpinning the concept of a “One Pager” is that it represents a one-page (no, really) response to something.

    Conventionally, given the concept’s origins in literature studies, this a piece of text.

    Somewhat less conventionally, in the context of sociology / psychology we can widen the definition of “text” to include just about anything you want – from a perspective or theory, through a research method to a specific concept you need students to understand.

    In other words, One Pagers are a way of getting students to condense their Notes on a particular topic or idea into a single page – which can, of course, be linked if necessary – that eventually builds into a simple, efficient and well-organised, revision system.

    In order to do this a One Pager needs to have some sort of structure – otherwise it’s just a blank sheet of paper – but what that structure might be is up to you (if you want to provide strong guidance) and / or individual students (if you’re confident enough to allow them to create the different structures that work for them).

    If students are new to the idea – and need a bit of encouragement to adopt it – it might be useful to develop One Page templates together to cover different aspects and types of Note-taking. This can, of course, include various forms of visual Note-taking (pictures, drawings, doodles…) as well as more-conventional text.

    Once students are confident with the idea and happy to use it you may find they develop their own, personal, structures that you can share with students who may be struggling to develop a style of their own.

    How various One Page templates develop will be strongly-influenced by what students are expected to know, the skills they are expected to demonstrate and so forth. In Sociology, for example, “evaluation” is an important skill that can be reflected in Notes that focus on things like the key strengths and weaknesses of a theory, method or perspective.

    In this respect, there are a couple of Template examples I’ve created you might find useful / instructive. I’ve presented these as Word documents (so they’re not pretty and pretty basic) rather than pdf files because most teachers / students will find it easier to edit the former.

    Template Examples

    Psychological Studies Deconstructed

    Friday, September 20th, 2019

    Although this a-level psychology site doesn’t seem to have been updated for a couple of years there’s still plenty here students and teachers will find very useful – particularly, but not exclusively, clear, concise and well-focused notes on a range of classic studies.

    To add to the general air of usefulness the notes on each study have been constructed around a range of standard criteria:

  • Introduction to study
  • Sample
  • Procedure
  • Results
  • Research method/s
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Ethical issues
  • click to see the studies

    One-Minute Interactionism: The Animated Version

    Thursday, September 19th, 2019

    A few months ago we posted an animated version of our One-Minute Strain Theory film and since it generally seemed to get a relatively welcoming reception we thought we’d go ahead with some further conversions of films in the “One-Minute” series.

    This month’s free animated offering, therefore, is a 1-Minute explanation of Labelling Theory that covers the key ideas behind this theory of crime and deviance in around 60 seconds (give or take – and not including the intro and credits).

    These include ideas like: primary deviation, secondary deviation and self-fulfilling prophecies.

    As you may suspect, covering a topic in 60 seconds is really just designed to help students focus on key ideas that can then be explored and developed inside and outside the classroom.

    Update

    If you’d prefer the non-animated version of 1-Minute Interactionism (because it’s a lot less visually weird perhaps?) we’ve now made a version available for your viewing and educational pleasure.

    Not an animation in sight.

    Right Realism vs. Edgework: A Short Film

    Saturday, September 7th, 2019

    This short Crime Channel film looks at two contrasting approaches to understanding young, male, working-class criminality.

    The first, Right Realism, is an approach underpinned by the notion of criminals making rational choices on the basis of a “cost-benefit” analysis of crime. If, in short, the potential costs exceed the assumed benefits then a crime will not be committed. If you want to explore the theoretical background of rational choice you might find this critical overview (there’s an accompanying PowerPoint if you want to take a more-visual approach) and evaluation useful.

    This, as you might expect, feeds into practical forms of situational crime prevention whereby potential criminal victims, from individuals to businesses, are encouraged to increase the potential costs of crime through various forms of target hardening.

    As characterised by Clarke (1980), “SCP is a practical, policy-oriented approach whose goal is to reduce crime in the future”. It is, as Freilich (2014) notes “uniquely concerned with how offenders successfully commit their crimes. Understanding how the offender carries out the crime can be used to craft interventions to prevent offending. The rest of criminology is focused on why perpetrators offend”.

    This focus on the how has led, as Freilich argues, to the development of “a growing number of strategies…that have in fact reduced crime. There are currently five general strategies encompassing 25 techniques to reduce crime. The techniques include both ‘‘hard’’ and soft interventions.

    Hard interventions include making it impossible or more difficult for the crime to be committed and alert potential perpetrators that they are likely to be apprehended if they transgress.

    Soft interventions reduce situational prompts/cues that increase a person’s motivation to commit a crime during specific types of events”.

    The second, Edgework, is an approach that offers a very different view in the sense it suggests the kinds of situational crime prevention measures advocated by Right Realists either displace crime or, in some situations, offer perverse incentives to young, male, working-class criminality.

    By making crime “more risky” through situational strategies and techniques it perversely makes it more attractive to some young males by offering greater challenges and hence more opportunities for individuals to enhance their power and status within the social groups that are important to, and supportive of, their sense of self.

    Getting Your Revision On: The Appliance of Science

    Thursday, August 15th, 2019

    Although revision is probably the last thing on anyone’s mind at the start of a course, the science suggests that taking a structured, long-term, “little and often”, approach is the way to go…

    Retrieval Practice Guide
    Retrieval Practice

    While any revision is arguably better than no revision, I’d also suggest some forms of revision are more effective than others. And if you’re looking at introducing a more-structured approach to student revision in your classroom – one that’s built-in to a course of study rather than bolted-on at the end – you might find ideas like Retrieval Practice and Spaced Study interesting and useful.

    These are ideas I’ve written about in a previous post,  based on the work of the Learning Scientists and the short video-explainers they’ve produced to introduce these ideas.

    read more about retrieval practice

    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

    Free Sociology Textbooks: A New Batch of Contenders

    Thursday, May 16th, 2019
    Seeing Sociology

    Those of you with long(ish) memories may recall the previous posts in a series that delivers a variety of slightly out-of-date sociology textbooks found gathering dust and mould in some unloved corners of the Internet to your desktop (Sociology Textbooks for Free and More Free Sociology Texts).

    If you do remember them you’ll no-doubt be pleased to know that I’ve been out rummaging once more and have collected a further batch of out-of-print editions of once-loved textbooks-that-have-been-replaced-by-newer-shinier-versions.

    And if you don’t, this should all come as a pleasant surprise.

    As ever, I’ve held fast to only two basic criteria when selecting the books (three if you count the fact that there’s not, in truth, a great deal of selecting going on behind the scenes, or four if you include the proviso they must be freely available “somewhere on the web” – i.e. I’m just the messenger bringing them to you).

    The first is they need to have been published in the 21st century (arbitrary I know, but you have to draw the line somewhere and that’s where I’ve drawn it).

    The second is that they should be out-of-print. i.e. they’re not being sold anywhere or have been supplanted by newer versions.

    Continue to the textbooks

    Psychology Films 4 | Methodology

    Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

    The penultimate batch of films is once again methods-related, although the general focus with these four films is methodology in psychology.

    Each has been designed to help teachers introduce different topics in a simple, visual, way.

    Reliability and Validity 
    5 minutes
    Psychologists have told us a lot about human behaviour, but can we trust the findings? This film looks at the part played by reliability and validity in helping to answer this question. Reliability and external and internal validity are explained and the key tests of face, concurrent and ecological validity are illustrated with examples from major psychological studies.

    Sampling…

    Sampling 
    6 minutes
    Sampling is crucial in psychology but can be difficult to understand. This film offers a helping hand with a series of visual images that take students through target population, samples, representativeness and generalisability. It then looks at how sampling is done, illustrating differences between probability and non-probability sampling, why different techniques are used and their strengths and limitations. The final part looks at how this knowledge can be used to help evaluate any study based on sampling.

    Reductionism 
    4 minutes
    This film illustrates both the importance and limitations of reductionism in psychological explanation using the example of research into diet and obesity. It compares reductionism and holism and cautions students against simply using reductionism as a critique to be compared unfavourably with holism.

    Variables 
    4 minutes
    Although the idea of variables can seem dull and uninspiring, they are crucial because they’re everywhere in psychology. This film provides a clear introduction to this concept, explaining and illustrating the key questions of definition, types, reliability, validity and application.

    Sociology Flipbooks

    Saturday, April 20th, 2019

    A Flipbook is a way of displaying a pdf document online so that it has the look-and-feel of a paper-based magazine, one whose pages you can turn using a mouse (desktop) or finger (mobile).


    A Flipbook.
    Not Actual Size.
    Unless you’re using a mobile.
    Then it might be.

    That’s it, really.

    I could talk about stuff like whether this creates a greater sense of engagement among students than the bog-standard static pages of a pdf file, but since I’ve got no idea (and I don’t know of anyone who’s bothered to try to find out) that would just be me trying to find a deceptively- plausible way to encourage you to try them.

    So, if this Big Build-Up has piqued your curiosity and / or whetted your appetite for Flipbooks you’ll be pleased to know I’ll be adding a variety of the little blighters to this page on what might be charitably termed an ad-hoc basis (translation: whenever I can be bothered or can find the time).

    (more…)

    Sociology in Focus for AS: Methods Resources

    Wednesday, March 13th, 2019
    Overview Map

    The final set of resources to accompany the free Sociology in Focus AS textbook is for Research Methods aka “Everyone’s Favourite Module” (Said no-one. Ever).

    Although the textbook is aimed at AQA, everyone, everywhere, does research methods so there’s little here that won’t be familiar, whatever the Specification.

    Probably.
    I’d be inclined to check, though.
    Just-in-case.

    If you’ve been following these posts over the past few weeks (and if you haven’t you might want to think about Registering with the Blog to ensure you’re notified whenever a new post happens along) you’ll be familiar with the format – activity answers, spider-diagrams, worksheets and teaching tips – and so won’t be disappointed that this is exactly what you’re getting here.

    Or maybe you will. Who really knows?

    To be a bit more specific, the bundle features:

    Worksheet

    An Overview Map that sets out the broad content of the Unit in terms of the different Modules. This can be useful as a way of introducing the Unit and giving students a broad outline of the content they will be expected to cover.

    Revision Maps: These spider diagrams map-out the textbook content on a module-by-module basis. This makes them useful for both end-of-Unit revision (the focus is on identifying keywords in the text and relating them to other, linked, content) and for introducing the basic content of each Module.

    Teaching Tips: These include suggestions for some hands-on, “Doing Sociology”, approaches to research methods, plus a general introduction to what was, at the time (around 10 years ago) a new and highly-innovative type of research method called Visual Sociology. It’s moved on a bit in the meantime and while it’s not exactly a mainstream method it’s something you might want to investigate if you have the time and / or inclination.

    Activity Answers: If you set your students any of the activities / questions in the book, a set of standard answers would be quite a handy thing to have. Luckily, I’ve written some handy suggested answers to all the questions so you don’t have to.

    Worksheets: In moderation worksheets can be a useful little weapon in your teaching armoury, particularly for small-group work / flipped learning. The worksheets involve a combination of individual and group-based tasks that can be used to consolidate and check learning.

    Graphic Organiser: Compare and Contrast

    Monday, March 4th, 2019
    The Classic Venn Diagram

    The latest post in the series devoted to graphic organisers sees the long-overdue introduction of the Venn diagram – a classic form of graphic organiser that provides a simple, visual, way to compare and contrast two (or sometimes more) ideas.

    It’s a type that works well with something like sociological perspectives where students are frequently required to look at the similarities (compare) and differences (contrast) between perspectives like Functionalism or Marxism.

    Equally, it’s possible to apply compare and contrast techniques within perspectives – examining different types of Feminism, for example, or comparing traditional forms of Functionalism and Marxism with their more-contemporary forms.

    This PowerPoint Presentation contains two organiser examples:

    1. The conventional circular Venn diagram.

    2. A less-conventional squared version.

    While both designs serve exactly the same functional purpose, the squared version provides more writing space – something that may be useful where there are a large number of differences / similarities to identify.

    Graphic Organisers: Hierarchies

    Thursday, February 28th, 2019
    3-Level Hierarchy

    Following posts on the Frayer Model and the 5-Points of the Star, Hierarchical Models are a further general variation that are worth adding to the list of graphic organisers available to teachers and students who want to explore different, more visual, ways of structuring information.

    Hierarchies – a top-down list involving a number of levels – are one of the staples of graphic organisation, mainly because they’re easy to draw and provide a simple, but highly significant, set of visual cues about the relationship between different ideas. This makes them particularly useful for tasks such as essay planning where it’s important for students to identify and explain the relationship between ideas.

    Although each graphic organiser follows the same broad structure there are a few variations that can be used, the first of which is a simple 3-Level Hierarchy that focuses on identifying relevant ideas.

    Level 1 involves the main idea

    Level 2 involves identifying key features of the main idea.

    Level 3 involves identifying significant aspects of each Level 2 feature.

    If you know how to do it you can tweak the PowerPoint Presentation to add further boxes to each level (particularly Level 2. In this example I’ve used 3 boxes but it’s sometimes appropriate to use more) or change the box colours. I’ve used colour coding as a further form of visual cue / reminder but some students may find them distracting and, in such instances it’s probably best just to leave them white.

    Update

    3-Level Hierarchy variation

    A variation on the 3-Level Hierarchy organiser changes the 3rd level from one of identification to explanation.

    In other words, rather than merely identifying significant aspects of level 2 features, students use the graphic organiser to explain the importance of these features.

    Although there are obvious similarities between the two templates, this latter version encourages more-extensive note-making.

    Graphic Organisers

    Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

    I recently stumbled across the notion of graphic organisers while rummaging around on Pinterest, although it’s probably an idea most teachers will have come across or informally used. Venn diagrams or tables of information, for example, represent proto forms of graphical organisation.

    Sandringham School Version

    All this post suggests is that it’s possible to formalise these practices into graphical formats that allow you and your students to represent information in visually consistent ways, either by providing students with information templates (a solid state form of graphical organisation that involves students using pre-existing graphical formats) or by encouraging them to develop their own graphical organisational forms (a free-form version that operates within a loose set of rules).

    This post focuses on the solid state form because it’s the easiest to construct (there are loads of pre-existing templates) and initially explain to students. The ability to use existing templates as a way of representing and structuring information is also a big advantage when students are being introduced to this slightly different way of “making notes”.

    If you’re interested in the free-form version have a look at this example of sociological perspectives (as an online flipbook or a pdf version)

    Here, the rules are defined by the creator (such as an individual student); in this example the rules I’ve defined are simple: start with the main point you want to represent, show how various key ideas are linked to that idea and include short notes to illustrate each idea. This then builds into an overview “Map” of, in this case, sociological perspectives.

    While free-form graphic organisers are probably the most personal and responsive types, they’re a technique that may be best introduced after your students have grasped the basic idea underpinning the graphical representation of information.

    (more…)

    Wakelet

    Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

    If you’re a teacher looking for a free Padlet replacement, this versatile Bookmarking site will probably do everything you need.

    Bookmarking sites can be a handy way for teachers to store and share all kinds of related information with their students and the leader in the field has, for me at least, always been Padlet, mainly because it lets you organise and display a variety of linked documents (text, video, audio…) in a quick, simple and visual way.

    Wakelet Grid

    Recent changes to the site have, however, seen its functionality limited unless you fork out for the “Pro Plans” at around $100 / £75 a year. While there’s still a perfectly serviceable free version that let’s you organise a wide range of different types of information, new users are only allowed 3 free Boards (Padlet’s way of naming grouped information).

    And while you can still cram a lot of bookmarks into a Board, it’s not very useful if you want to categorise information in more than 3 ways.

    Which is probably something most teachers want to do.

    But without the price tag.

    And this is where Wakelet might be a useful alternative, particularly if you just want to store and organise basic types of information, such as links, documents and videos. While Padlet has a few more bells and whistles, Wakelet does pretty much everything a teacher / student might need (although it’s important to note it doesn’t – at least at the time of writing – allow you to directly upload Word or PowerPoint documents. You need to covert them to Pdf first – and although this isn’t an insurmountable problem, it is a definite limitation).

    Functionality

    Instead of Boards, Wakelet has Collections – places where you store related bookmarks. If you want to see how this works, this is a Collection I made earlier. It’s just a set of video links, but it should give you an idea about the sort of stuff Wakelet can do once you’ve familiarised yourself with the interface and layout.

    There are some basic customisations you can make to your Home Page and Collections (adding background images / branding for example) and you can set one of three levels of access for each Collection:

  • Public can be seen by anyone
  • Private, which only you can see
  • Unlisted, where you can invite people to view a Collection based on a link you share.
  • Expanded Wakelet grid

    In terms of what you can Bookmark, this currently includes:

  • YouTube videos
  • pdf documents
  • images
  • free text (you can write whatever you like)
  • Twitter links to display a Twitter feed as a Collection (although this requires giving Wakelet a level of access to your Twitter account that you might want to think twice about)
  • Crosslinks that allow a link from one Collection to be added to a different Collection.
  • You can also give different contributors, such as your students, access to each Collection so they can add information to it.

    Overall, while Wakelet is probably not quite as flexible as Padlet, it’s a decent bookmarking site that’s easy to use and which allows you to create as many Collections as you need.

    All for free.

    Happy New Year.

    Rational Choice Theory | 2

    Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

    This second (of two) posts evaluates Rational Choice Theory and, by extension, any New Right / Right Realist theories based on the notion of rational cost-benefit analyses of criminal motivation.

    Digested Read

    A list of all the relevant bits to save you having to read through the rest of the post…

    • Rational Choice Theory (RCT) reminds us that an understanding of social action – how and why people make certain choices – is important for an understanding of criminal behaviour. It also focuses our attention on crime as a rational process.

    • A cost-benefit analysis of offending fits neatly with a common sense understanding of criminal behaviour. It also underpins a range of contemporary crime theories – such as RCT, Broken Windows and Routine Activities – that can be generally characterised as Right Realist. It has, however, serious limitations related to how offenders receive and process information, particularly in time-limited situations.

    • An alternative and, according to Simon (1956), more realistic way to understand the behaviour of offenders, is to see it in terms of a bounded rationality. Interview evidence, for example, suggests burglars evaluate alternative forms of behaviour within what Walters (2015) calls “the limits of their knowledge and abilities”. Offenders, in this respect, seem to make “rational enough” decisions based on a range of “rule-of-thumb” beliefs and experiences.

    • If a cost-benefit model of criminal decision-making is invalid, this has important ramifications for both crime-control theories and situational crime prevention techniques and strategies. More specifically it suggests that if offenders do not rationally weigh likely benefits against potential costs any attempt to lower the former and raise the latter will have only a limited long-term effect on crime.

    (more…)

    Rational Choice Theory | 1a

    Monday, October 1st, 2018

    If you’ve had a look at the Rational Choice Theory | 1 post and were wondering if there are further parts “in the pipeline”, the short answer is “Yes”.

    There will be a further part that gives RCT a good critical kicking the once-over in terms of weaknesses and limitations.

    I’ve written most of it but am still messing around with the order of things, plus I need to think about how I can express the ideas of bounded rationality and bounded choices in a way that doesn’t overly-confuse A-level students.

    In the meantime, while you’re waiting I thought it might be useful to put the text-heavy Part 1 into a more-visual form, via a simple PowerPoint Presentation, in case you find it easier to talk-and-teach students through this material.

    And who doesn’t?

    Rational Choice Theory | 1

    Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

    This first of two posts on Rational Choice Theory (RCT) provides an overview of a key New Right theory whose central argument about criminal rationality underpins a range of later Right Realist explanations for crime.

    Rational Choice Theory (RCT) is one of a group of theories – including Broken Windows and Routine Activities Theory – that applies ideas developed to explain economic behaviour – in particular the idea individuals are rational and self-interested – to the explanation of criminal behaviour. The theory reflects, as Wilson (1983) puts it, the idea that “some scholars, especially economists, believe that the decision to become a criminal can be explained in much the same way as we explain the decision to become a carpenter or to buy a car”.

    Gary Becker

    While ideas about individual self-interest and rational choices in economic behaviour are well-established, their application to crime and criminal motivations, initially through the work of economists such as Becker (1968), gives them a contemporary twist that can be outlined in the following way:

    1. Offenders are not qualitatively different to non-offenders

    There’s nothing in the sociological or psychological background of offenders that either causes or explains their offending. To take a simple example: while many poor, deprived, individuals commit crimes, many more from the same social background do not.

    A key concept here is agency: the idea people make choices about their behaviour that are neither determined nor necessarily influenced by their social and / or psychological backgrounds. Rather, choices are made in the context of particular situations – particularly the opportunities that are available for the commission of crimes.

    (more…)

    Left Realism

    Friday, August 31st, 2018

    In an earlier post I supplemented a PowerPoint visualisation of Left Realism’s “three-cornered approach” to understanding crime and deviance with a more-detailed explanation of how the approach generally works and revisiting this post to see if I could scavenge anything worth adding to the Crime and Deviance Channel made me think that displaying the text online probably wasn’t the most user-friendly thing to do.

    Being a generally helpful kind of a guy, therefore, I thought it might be useful to reformat the Left Realism text as a pdf document.

    So I did.

    As you’ll see if you download the file, I haven’t changed any of the text – just reformatted it to make it a bit more-legible – but it may be that you and your students will find this format a little more flexible.

    Or not.

    As the case may be.