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Posts Tagged ‘beliefs in society’

Sociological Dinner Parties

Thursday, April 16th, 2020

This general lesson plan, created by Molly Scott and delivered in the form of a simple PowerPoint Presentation, requires students to imagine they’re organising and hosting a dinner party to which, in this particular instance, a range of sociologists of religion have been invited.

To this end you can either use the ready-made guest list provided (from old favourites like Durkheim and Marx to newer names like Woodhead and El Saadawi) or devise your own based on the sociologists that have been introduced and discussed with your students in relation to perspectives on the role of religion.

The Presentation is pretty self-explanatory and doesn’t demand much in the way of resources, although you can supply a few white paper plates for note-taking purposes if you want to add a little atmosphere to the party.

Although this particular example has been designed round different perspectives on the role of religion, once you’ve grasped the basics it shouldn’t be too difficult to arrange further dinner parties around any topic that involves the application of sociological perspectives…

Update

I don’t remember how I chanced upon this set of Google docs, created by Claire Wells, but the important thing is they take the Sociological Dinner Party idea outlined above and apply it to global development.

The resource is also intended to help students develop their essay-writing skills, with a particular focus on AO3 – analysis and evaluation.

Year 13 Sociology

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

A previous post (Year 12 Sociology) outlined a range of resources created by Stephanie Parsons to support AQA Paper 1 topics (Introduction to Sociology, Family, Education) and this post points you in the general direction of her 2nd year A-level site, Year 13 Sociology.

Lesson Plan
Year 13 Lesson Plan

The landing page has a mix of posts on a range of topics (Marxist Perspectives, prisons, green crime, cults) so it’s probably worth having a nose around to see if there’s anything relevant to your particular interests. There are also a range of Paper 1 Revision Resources available.

Aside from this, the major resources – mainly, but not exclusively, detailed lesson plan slides that include extensive Notes and Activities – cover three areas:

1. Crime and Deviance: Includes resources on:

Functionalism

Marxism

Subcultural Theory

Labelling theory

Left Realism

Right Realism

Environment (Ecological)

Class

Gender

Globalisation and crime

Media and crime

Green crime

Human Rights

Crime and Punishment

Police, Courts and Prisons

Crime Prevention

Victimology

Ethnicity

Theory and Methods / Beliefs in Society

Types of New Age (Religious) Movement

Thursday, February 27th, 2020
New Age Religious Movements PowerPoint.
Click to download.

A previous post looked at New Age Religious Movements (NAMs) in terms of the idea of different “streams” – a way of broadly classifying NAMs according to the different types of transformation they promise (such as intellectual and lifestyle) the individual and / or society.

This PowerPoint Presentation complements this idea by looking at a broader typology of New Age Movements that classifies them in terms of three types:

1. Explicitly Religious: These types, examples of which include Krishna Consciousness and the Divine Light Mission, demonstrate a much stronger and more-overt religiosity than some of their New Age counterparts. The focus of these well-organised groups is spiritual / religious-type experiences that can be applied in various ways to the individual’s life and work.

2. Human Potential types focus more-specifically on various forms of individual, organisational and societal transformations, with the emphasis on releasing “inner spirituality” rather than worshiping an external religious form. Stark and Bainbridge (1987) called these “client movements” because they focused on providing a “service” to members / practitioners based around a “provider-client” relationship. The services provided, in the form of things like teachings, practices and tests, are frequently sold to practitioners – the latter often quite literally “buy-into” the spiritual services on offer.

3. Mystical types tend to adopt what Stark and Bainbridge classify as an “audience” (or leisure) approach to spirituality and they tend to embody what we traditionally perceive, somewhat stereotypically perhaps, “New Age” forms of spirituality to take. This type is invariably syncretic: spiritual movements embodying beliefs drawn from a mix of “ancient” religious, secular and philosophical teachings that can be picked up, modified and discarded almost at will.  

The Presentation identifies a range of significant features of each type and offers an example or two, illustrated by short (30 – 40 seconds) video clips.

New Age (Religious) Movements (NAMs)

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

A short – but critical – piece on New Age Religious Movements and some possible reasons for their emergence and popularity in postmodernity…

Melton (2001) suggests “the term New Age refers to a wave of religious enthusiasm that emerged in the 1970s” which, for Cowan (2003), have two defining characteristics:

1. NAMs represent new ways of “doing religion” and “being religious”, with the focus on finding solutions to individual and social problems through “personal transformations”; the individual must change their life in some way. In this respect Brown (2004) notes NAMs focused specifically around “transformations of the self and society”, include:

  • astrology.
  • channelling (direct communication with spirits).
  • work with one’s “inner child”.
  • “a laundry list of unconventional healing techniques”.
  • Langone (1993) identifies four main “streams” within NAMs involving different ways to “transform the self” through personal lifestyle changes.

    These categories may at times overlap – occult practices might involve beliefs about lifestyle changes – but one feature common to all NAMs is the belief “spiritual knowledge and power can be achieved through the discovery of the proper techniques”.

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    Attending Church at the Turn of the (20th) Century

    Saturday, October 19th, 2019
    Leaving Church: England c.1900
    Leaving Church: England c.1900

    One of the things about teaching the sociology of religion is that, at various points – from its function and role in society to secularisation theory – you’ll find yourself referring to “religion in the past”.

    And if you want to anchor your observations in something slightly more-solid than an airy wave of the hand behind your shoulder, this bit of film I’ve stumbled across might help.

    It’s around 4 minutes of “people leaving church”; the first 2 minutes focus on a single (unnamed) Church while the final couple of minutes feature people leaving a Church in Hanley, Staffordshire and a parish Church in Sheffield.

    While this, in itself, isn’t particularly interesting, the fact the films date from 1901-1902 should give them a little more resonance – particularly if you use them to illustrate a range of sociological ideas, observations and discussion points about “religion in the past”.

    I’ve noted a few to get you started:

    1. What do the very large numbers of people leaving each Church service tell us about “religious attendance” in the past?

    2. The people leaving the services are, in the main, very well dressed for the time. What does this tell us about both the process of “attending Church” and the class of people for whom Church attendance was important?

    3. Why was Church attendance important to the urban middles classes around the turn of the 20th century?

    4. How do the films provide evidence that an integral part of “Churchgoing” was “to see and be seen” – not just in terms of displaying “religious piety”, but also social status? How might this – and also the film of large numbers of children in a Church parade – be related to Durkheim’s ideas about the function of religion?

    6. Is there any evidence in the films that suggest Churchgoing was as much a social as a religious occasion?

    These questions are, of course, merely indicative – the kinds of questions that popped into my head as I watched the films.

    If you think of any better ones, feel free to let me know.

    Leaving Church: England 1901-1902

    Belonging Without Believing

    Friday, July 26th, 2019

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

    Sunday Assembly

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

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

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

    Or maybe not?

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

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

    New Sociology Learning Tables

    Saturday, April 20th, 2019

    It’s been a while since I last posted any Sociology Learning Tables / Knowledge Organisers (Psychology teachers and students have been better-served in the interim, even though I’ve still got a load more that I need to get around to posting), partly because I haven’t really been looking for any and partly because I haven’t found any.

    The two could be connected

    Luckily – for you and me both – TheHecticTeacher has been busy creating a whole host of new learning tables for your download pleasure in three areas:

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    Sociology in Focus for A2: Free Textbook

    Sunday, February 10th, 2019

    Sociology in Focus for A2 is, as you may have guessed, the companion volume to the previously-posted AS text and it’s no great surprise that its design and layout perfectly complements its AS counterpart. This includes the by-now standard colour-coded sections, lots of pictures, activities and questions that, at the time, were considered a quite radical design departure that was not, it hardly needs to be said, to everyone’s taste.
    The main concern, particularly but not exclusively among those who were concerned about this kind of thing, was that something had to make way for all the activities, pretty pictures, questions and even prettier pictures.

    And that something was, inevitably, the amount of text that managed to squeeze its way on pages crammed with all kinds of attractive, if sometimes largely superfluous, imagery.

    While it’s relatively easy to get away with this at AS level, it’s somewhat harder to pull-off the same trick at A2 level.

    So does it manage to pull it off?

    Well. Yes and No.

    The text, although limited in length, is generally well-written and informative and sometimes takes students into areas – particularly related to sociological theory – they aren’t usually expected to venture. Unfortunately, by meandering off the beaten track the text runs the risk, at times, of failing to adequately cover the bare essentials.

    Although it’s a moot point as to whether this text alone adequately prepares students for A2, this is where you and your students are quid’s in: you can use bits-and-bobs to supplement the more up-to-date texts you undoubtedly use in your day-to-day teaching.

    Alternatively, it’s a nice, big, bold, colourful text with lots of ideas for activities. And questions.

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    Sociology Revision Cards

    Monday, November 26th, 2018

    Back in the day, before the invention of Learning Tables / Knowledge Organisers, students had to make do with Revision Cards – lists of all the key ideas and concepts you might need to know for an exam (you’ll find a selection here if you want to take a trip back to a time before mobile phones ).

    Anyway, I chanced upon a mix of PowerPoint and Pdf Revision Cards (dating from around 2014 so they may require a bit of editing to bring them into line with the latest Specifications) on Chris Deakin’s SociologyHeaven website. I’m guessing the PowerPoints were designed for whole-class revision but if you want to give your students the slides as Revision Cards just use the Export function to create pdf files.

    If you find the Kristen ITC font used in the files a bit too racy for your taste, just convert the text to something like Arial.

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    The Sociological Detectives: Ch-Ch-Changing NRMs

    Friday, August 24th, 2018

    Another in the New Religious Movements series of PowerPoint Presentations, this uses the Sociological Detective format to investigate a “crime scene” to unearth various clues based on Eileen Barker’s observations about why NRM’s change over time.

    The basic idea is that as each clue is unveiled it contributes towards an understanding of Movement change and once all the clues are revealed it should then be possible to link them to arrive at a general explanation for such changes.

    While there’s nothing too sophisticated here, the Sociological Detective format plus the ability to reveal, focus on and discuss a single idea at a time might prove an interesting way to encourage students to reflect on and discuss changes in New Religious Movements.

    If you need it, the Presentation contains a short video (about 90 seconds) of Barker talking about the recent development of NRM’s. You can use this clip as a piece of background information to sensitise your students to some of the ideas identified in the main Presentation. The clip is linked from YouTube (so you will need an active Internet connection to play it) rather than embedded in the Presentation to keep the PowerPoint file down to a reasonable size (around 6mb as opposed to around 125…).

    Although I haven’t included one here, if you have a favourite NRM case study (from the Moonies through Scientology to Heaven’s Gate…) it could be easily integrated into the Presentation to provide an empirical background to Barker’s observations.

    New Religious Movements: Who Joins?

    Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

    Another PowerPoint in what’s rapidly evolving into some sort of NRM-based series.

    This, as you might expect, complements the previously-posted Characteristics and Pathways Presentations and draws once more on the work of Professor Eileen Barker.

    There’s not a lot to say about it except that it’s a deceptively-simple Presentation that identifies and outlines 5 groups who are particularly attracted to New Religious Movements.

    New Religious Movements: 6 Characteristics

    Saturday, July 21st, 2018

    Basic PowerPoint Presentation, designed for whole-class use, that identifies Barker’s 6 characteristics of New Religious Movements.

    The concept of New Religious Movements was initially developed, by writers such as Eileen Barker (1999), to reflect a general unease and dissatisfaction with the contemporary usefulness of the “sect – cult” distinction.

    More-specifically, the argument in favour of a looser way of categorising a variety of new religious groupings is based on the claim that their increasing diversity of what are conventionally labelled “sects” or “cults” makes it difficult to maintain both a clear theoretical and empirical separation between the two:

    • Theoretically, such is the overlap between sects and cults the distinction “on the ground”, when studying their activities, is less than useful. Woodhead et al. (2005), for example, in their ground-breaking study of religion and spirituality in Kendal, identified “two domains”: the Congregational, consisting of a range of churches and denominations and the Holistic – a wide variety of spiritual practices and beliefs they categorised in terms of their ease of access for potential practitioners: from the low access requirements of yoga (you can simply turn up to class and practice it, with or without any accompanying spiritual content) to the high access requirements of something like Paganism that involves a certain level of commitment in terms of its beliefs and practices. In this sense, therefore, “New Religious Movement” simply becomes a kind of generic term for a range of religious organisations that don’t fit easily into the church or denomination category.

    • Empirically, evidence derived from the study of different religious groups and movements suggests they are both increasingly sophisticated in the way they recruit and retain members and internally diverse in terms of how they operate. One reason for this is that globalisation – particularly but not exclusively in the form of the Internet and social media – has allowed new religious movements to diversify in terms of both what they offer to potential and actual converts and how they offer it. Scientology, for example, has been particularly sophisticated in this respect, marketing itself by forging many different types of relationship with members through a wide range of media, old and new.

    In addition, there are huge organisational and behavioural differences within categories like ‘sect’ and ‘cult’: they’re not simple, homogeneous, classifications and it may be more useful to reflect their multi-layered diversity by being more selective in how we categorise them.

    As well as questioning what the categories “sect” and “cult” denote – the supposedly essential features by which they can be differentiated – Barker also suggests we need to consider how these labels have increasingly acquired particular, frequently pejorative, connotations in both the media and wider society: the term “cult”, for example, has, she argues, come to have almost a wholly-negative meaning, “often implying bizarre beliefs, sinister and deceptive practices, mind control or psychological coercion and, perhaps, sexual abuse and violent tendencies”.

    In this respect, Barker argues the sect – cult distinction should be replaced by a much-looser form of categorisation, namely New Religious Movements, “defined as groups which have become visible in their present form since the Second World War, and which are religious in so far as they offer an answer to some of the ultimate questions traditionally addressed by mainstream religions: Is there a God? What is the purpose of life? What happens to us after death?”.

    To help students get to grips with what Barker identifies as 6 major characteristics of New Religious Movements I’ve bundled them together in a simple PowerPoint Presentation.
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    Paranormal Activity: Another Dimension to the Secularisation Debate?

    Monday, May 14th, 2018

    Although the secularisation debate in sociology has a number of different dimensions, involving arguments over issues like sacralisation, desacralisation, resacralisation, post-secularisation, religious fundamentalism and the like, one key assumption in the debate is rarely, if ever, questioned: the idea that “secularisation” is effectively a zero-sum game that consists of two, fundamentally-opposed, sides:

    1. The Religious, defined in a variety of ways from the very narrow – adherence to what we might call conventional forms of religious practice (such as attendance at religious services) and belief (such as prayer) – to the very wide, which includes things like a range of New Age spiritual beliefs and practices. An even wider interpretation of “individual religiosity” might include something like Davie’s “believing without belonging” argument which, at it’s most elastic, can be used to argue that even within widely-secularised societies there is a fundamental core of religious belief. As a leading article in the conservative Spectator magazine put it (2017): “While fewer of us in Britain call ourselves Christian, we remain a country steeped in Christian values”.

    Whatever the merits – or otherwise – of this particular argument, there’s little doubt the evidence relating to conventional religious practice and belief points in a quite specific direction. In the UK, for example, the 2017 British Social Attitudes survey notes:

    • 50% of the UK population say they have no religion
    • 75% of young people (18- to 24) say they have no religion
    • Just under 1 million people attend church services each week. Depending how you count the UK population, a maximum of around 5% are regular worshippers.
    • Around 6% of the UK population are “practising Christians” – defined as “people who read or listen to the Bible at least once a week, pray at least once a week and attend a church service at least once a month”.

    In the USA, often cited as a “more religicised” or “resacralised” population, Routledge (2017) notes:

    • 75% of the population reported “belonging to a religious group” (down from 95% 25 years ago). This “belonging” is, however, likely to be very weak (akin to people in the UK identifying with the “Church of England” rather than having any active engagement in that Church).
    • Around 15 – 20% of the population are ”active churchgoers”
    • Over the past 25 years “the percentage of Americans who reported being absolutely confident God exists dropped from 71% to 63%”.

    2. The Secular defined in terms of a lack of religious practice, organisation or belief. In other words, everything that is not explicitly “religious”.

    When this debate is conceived in zero-sum terms it follows that for one of these “sides” to win, the other must lose: in simple terms, either contemporary societies are becoming increasingly secularised or they are reinventing different forms of religious beliefs and behaviours that defies the idea of “simple secularisation”.

    While both sides have, of course, a place in the evaluation of secularisation at a-level (it is arguably more-important to critically reflect on the journey rather than the eventual destination) it’s possible to add a further dimension to your students’ ability to successfully debate the issue by questioning the assumption that any decrease in religious organisation, practice or belief automatically means an increase in secular beliefs and behaviours.

    And one way to do this is to introduce the concept of a belief in the paranormal.
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    A-Level Revision Booklets: 1. Beliefs in Society

    Thursday, March 1st, 2018

    A couple of years ago I posted some A-level revision booklets / guides, one from Greenhead College on education  and three from Tudor Grange Academy (Culture and Identity, Education, Research Methods).

    On the basis that you can’t have too many revision booklets (although, thinking about it, you probably can) I thought I’d post a few more I’ve somehow managed to collect, starting with three really-quite-comprehensive booklets covering Beliefs in Society (AQA), although they also cover useful stuff on Religion (OCR, Eduqas, CIE etc.).

    Beliefs in Society is a comprehensive revision booklet that covers: definitions, theories, class, gender, age and ethnicity, organisations, science, ideology. It’s mainly brief notes with some relatively simple evaluation exercises.

    Beliefs in Society too covers much the same ground, albeit in a less-detailed way. I’m guessing this is actually a series of teaching PowerPoints, based on the Webb et al textbook exported to pdf. I could, of course, be wrong (although admittedly I rarely am).

    Religion and Ideology is by the same author (the somewhat enigmatic “Joe”) and although it suggests a focus on the “Ideology” section of the AQA Spec. it seems to interpret this brief very widely to look at theories, organisations, globalised religion, fundamentalism and a whole lot more. While it covers a lot of the same ground as the Beliefs in Society 2 booklet it generally does so in less detail. Combine the two and you’re got quite an effective set of revision (and indeed teaching) Notes.

    SociologySaviour Blog

    Monday, December 25th, 2017

    I was looking for pictures of Arron Cicoural for a new film we’re editing on Labelling Theory when I stumbled across the rather interesting SociologySaviour Blog,  that unfortunately now looks as though it hasn’t been updated since mid-2016. This is something of a shame because the material it contains seems well-written and useful – although this isn’t something the navigation system could be accused of being. It’s all a bit minimalist and confusing until you scroll to the bottom of the page where you’ll find links to four categories:

    Crime and Deviance: extensive notes on wide range of topics
    Beliefs in Society: notes on a smaller range of topics
    Sociological Theory: brief notes on a small range of perspectives
    Research Methods: doesn’t seem to have ever been developed.

    Basically, the site has a lot of notes on Crime, a lesser range on Beliefs and Theory and a short indication of notes that would have appeared under Research Methods but which, for whatever reason, never seem to have been added.

    Be that as it may – and we can only guess the reasons for the project’s apparent abandonment – the notes included are really quite good: short, to-the-point and, as far as I’ve read, accurate.

    Spaced Study: Free Resources

    Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

    Spaced Study or Spaced Practice is a theory of learning that argues, in a nutshell, that students study more effectively and retain more of the information they learn if the study period is “spaced” – or spread out over a number of hours / days – than if studying is “crammed” into short intensive blocks.

    Interestingly, unlike so many “contemporary study techniques” this technique not only sounds like it should be effective, there’s also a lot of scientific research both historic and contemporary, that actually supports the basic idea.

    If you can’t be bothered to read this document (or, as I prefer to think, you’ll take my word for it…) the Very Wonderful Learning Scientists have helpfully distilled the basics into a teacher / student friendly form.

    While this is all-well-good-and-worth-a-try, you might be thinking, do you have the time – spaced or otherwise – and, more-importantly, resources to convince your students that Spaced Study is more effective than something like Cramming?

    If you don’t – and I’ve a feeling you’re probably not alone in this – the equally-wonderful Hectic Teacher has come riding to your rescue because she’s produced a range of completely-free Spaced Study Booklets so you don’t have to.

    Which is nice.

    As you’ll find if you click the link there are 5 booklets available on her Blog covering some of the most popular AQA A-level Units (Family, Education, Beliefs in Society, Crime and Deviance, Theory and Methods).