A Modest Proposal for Structured Sociology Teaching: Part 3

The previous post identified and briefly outlined the 5 categories that make-up the Structured Teaching scheme and in this post we can look at each category in a little more detail by way of a “worked example” based around Differential Educational Achievement.

We can start with a visual example of what a mind-mapped structure might look-like, keeping in mind it’s just a simple representation of part of an overall structure for what is quite a large Module (it covers Outside School factors and Social Class).

If you’d like a more-interactive version of this graphic you can download a pdf version that includes some sample Notes to schema3accompany each of the Items I’ve included in the example.

  1. Problematise: The questions we could ask here are many and varied; this is a particularly wide issue that can, if it’s more convenient, be broken down into a number of different, specific, questions. However, for illustrative purposes we could specify something like “How is class, gender and ethnicity related to differential educational achievement?” as a very general way of framing the problem.
  2. Contextualise: The general purpose of this category is to generate links between how the problem is framed and how it can be explained and as with different possible questions there are a range of ideas that could be examined as part of the contextualising process. These include:
  • how achievement is defined: this is significant because different definitions impact on how we understand and explain achievement differences.
  • how achievement is measured: this conventionally involves looking at exam grades, such as GCSE and A-level in the UK, but this is not the only measure of achievement. Different measures, therefore, will similarly impact on our understanding and explanation of different achievement.
  • statistical evidence based on categories like class, gender and ethnicity. This may, for example, involve using a range of Key Stage data (including GCSE and A-level) to highlight achievement differences that can then be examined trough different theories / explanations.

Another type of context also suggests itself in this particular area of the course in terms of explanatory factors originating:

  • outside school, such as in the home or wider society. • inside schools, such as different types of schooling.

As with all aspects of this schema teachers are free to explore some, none or all of these suggested contexts. What’s important is that “the problem” is given a social context that links it to the next stage in the scheme.

  1. Conceptualise: In this particular example three major concepts – class, gender and ethnicity – provide very convenient broad organisational categories; we could, for example, explore each in turn in terms of explanations (“theories”) and supporting / countervailing evidence.

In this respect it’s possible to look at each concept in turn as part of a wider teaching framework. For example:

  1. Inside school factors:
  • social class – explanations
  • •gender – explanations
  • ethnicity – explanations
  1. Outside school factors:
  • social class – explanations
  • gender – explanations
  • ethnicity – explanations

As with all aspects of content you’re not restricted to these particular ideas; you can add further concepts, either as subdivisions of class, gender and ethnicity (socialisation, for example) or as conceptual classes in their own right. You could, for example, use “differential socialisation” as a major category with class, gender and ethnicity as sub-divisions. Alternatively, depending how you feel about such things, you could use something like “Intelligence” as a major conceptual category which would then lead into areas like whether class differences in achievement reflect natural (genetic) differences.

Once again, there is no lock on content here; all the structure does is provide an organising framework that provides logical links between the various elements.

  1. Theorise: This is likely to be the largest part of the framework in terms of content and it’s here that we can introduce various explanations for differential educational achievement. Such explanations can:
  • be introduced as logical extensions of your conceptual categories. • directly reference any empirical evidence introduced in the Context section. • reference further evidence derived from specific studies grouped around the particular type of theoretical explanation being used.
  1. Evidence: You can use this as a discrete category or as an extension of the Theory category; it simply involves looking at various forms of evidence – both for and against – a particular study and, by extension, type of explanation.

Finally, in Part 4 we’ll look at some of the possible advantages and potential drawbacks with this teaching scheme.

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