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Posts Tagged ‘education’

School Climate: Narrowing the Gender Gap?

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

In a UK context, the relationship between gender and educational achievement – whereby girls consistently outperform boys at all levels of the education system – is both well-known and persistent. More-interestingly, per

Canford Public School: school climate may be affected by a range of external factors, such as the public perceptions of a school and its value.

haps, this situation is not, as Legewie and DiPrete (2012) note, confined to the UK, given that “boys generally underperform relative to girls in schools throughout the industrialized world”.

As you might expect, numerous explanations for the “gender gap” in achievement have been put-forward – biological, psychological and sociological – that variously focus on:

• outside school factors, such as poverty, innate intelligence or family background.
• inside school factors, such as teacher labelling or different types of pupil subculture.

More-recently, however, there’s been a tentative shift in (sociological) focus towards a more-integrated, holistic, approach to understanding the precise mechanics of differential achievement, one that places the concept of school climate centre stage.

School Climate

One of the benefits of a standardised secondary education system is that all students, regardless of social attributes like class or gender, follow the same basic curriculum, sit the same exams and are evaluated to the same basic standards. All things being equal, therefore, we might statistically and sociologically expect a fairly random distribution of achievement across a general population.

The fact there is a distinctly non-random distribution – higher socio-economic status (SES) groups achieve more than lower SES groups, girls generally achieve more than boys in each SES grouping – suggests things are far from equal. The problem, as we’ve suggested, is how to explain these skewed achievement distributions?

The concept of school climate involves the idea that a combination of material and cultural factors, centred in and around “the school”, inhibit or foster academic achievement.

The school, in other words, is the place where a range of processes – from social class backgrounds through pupil subcultures to pupil-teacher interactions – meet and interact and the main question to resolve, in terms of differential achievement, is whether or not schools are simply conduits through which wider social and economic inequalities pass. In other words, do schools simply reflect and refine wider inequalities or are they capable of mitigating and transforming them?

The Male-Female Gender Gap…

Legewie and DiPrete’s (2012) research in Berlin, Germany, suggests that school climate may be a significant, if largely-overlooked, factor in differential achievement, at least in relation to gender (although the research does have wider implications for both class and ethic differences).

Drawing on a range of research from Willis (1977) onward, they argue that one of the crucial variables in both achievement and underachievement is the concept of “gender differentiated adolescent cultures”, developed and reinforced in peer groups, that are “important influences on how children view school, whether they take school seriously, and how hard they work as students”.

In a nutshell they argue that adolescent constructions of masculinity in contemporary industrial societies generally foster a range of anti-school attitudes and behaviours that impact on boys’ levels of achievement relative to girls. While it’s not necessarily the case that these attitudes are overtly hostile to schooling, per se, Legewie and DiPrete argue there generally exists a “peer culture that constructs resistance to schools and teachers as valued masculine traits”. To put this another way, Younger et al (2005) suggest there’s strong evidence that, in the UK at least (and very probably elsewhere), the most valued ways of “doing boy” tend to be “anti-school”, with academic work closely associated with femininity “and effortless achievement as the ideal”.

While this resistance appears in male peer groups right across the class spectrum – upper-class girls, for example, generally show greater levels of achievement than upper-class boys – its effect diminishes the higher up the class structure we look: upper and middle class boys, for example, consistently outperform lower class girls.

One reason for this, Legewie and DiPrete suggest, is that “High-status parents generally foster an orientation for their boys that is at least instrumentally focused on high performance in school. These parents also have resources to intervene in their children’s lives to counter signs of educational detachment or poor performance”.

For lower-class males whose families lack such resources the types of successful interventions common among their higher-class peers necessarily fall on the school. Or not, as the case may be. Female peer groups, on the other hand, “vary less strongly with the social environment in the extent to which school engagement is stigmatized as un-feminine”.

In other words, female peer groups right across the class structure don’t see “resistance to authority and disengagement from school as core aspects of feminine identity”. One important consequence of this non-association, therefore, is that girls don’t see “attachment to teachers and school” as unfeminine.

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Gender and Subject Choice

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

Another little bonus to add to yesterday’s offering from the work I’m currently doing on the concept of school climate and its possible effect on achievement.

This one comes in the form of a couple of pieces of research commissioned by the Institute of Physics that cover gendered subject choices at A-level.

Closing Doors: Exploring gender and subject choice in schools (2013) provides a raft of information on male-female representation across 3 “comparable pairs” of 6 A-level subjects:

• English and Mathematics: both core subjects at GCSE
• Biology and Physics: two science choices at A-level
• Psychology and Economics: A-level subjects not normally taught in earlier years.

Although the presentation, findings and commentaries are probably a little too dense to be given directly to students, there’s plenty here for teachers to get their teeth into and selectively use. There is, however, a neat summary of the research right at the start that students will find helpful.

It’s Different for Girls (2012) is a companion piece to Closed Doors focused much more tightly on Physics A-level. Once again, probably not something to simply hand-out to students but, again, it’s a piece of research that teachers’ might find selectively rewarding.

If, for example, you were looking for examples of a “school climate” effect in relation to gender, it’s interesting that while the socio-economic background of a school has, as you might expect, a significant effect in terms of the raw numbers of those studying physics at A-level, there is little effect on cohort proportions. That is, the proportion of girls and boys studying a-level physics is similar across all socio-economic groups – an observation that suggests factors additional to social class impact on subject choice.

DEA: Mythbusters

Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

I’ve recently been looking at the idea of school climate and its possible relationship to the gender gap in educational achievement for a forthcoming blog post, a fact I mention for a couple of reasons:

firstly, because I think the notion of school climate and its possible impact on educational achievement is an interesting idea, both conceptually and practically, that’s not really been adequately, if at all, addressed in the A-level literature and, secondly, by way of trying to create the impression that I actually plan these blog posts. I’ll leave you to decide which, if any, of these is more important (but I know where I’m placing my bet).

I mention this by way of introducing a useful and informative document I chanced across called Addressing Gender and Achievement: Myths and Realities (2009) and published by what was then the Department for Children, Schools and Families (it’s anyone’s guess what it’s called now).

In a nutshell, the document sets-out to bust-some-myths about gender and educational achievement in a simple and straightforward way:

• state the myth (“Coursework favours girls and ‘sudden death’ examinations favour boys”).
• bust it with evidence (“Changes in assessment practice reducing the value of the GCSE coursework component have had little impact on gendered achievement patterns”).
• briefly explain the evidence.

As such, it’s not only a useful and informative little document, it’s also one that’s a decidedly student-friendly read (which is quite handy if you like to get your students to read stuff).

GCSE Sociology Guides: Family and Education

Friday, August 17th, 2018

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

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

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

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

The Hidden Rules of (Social) Class

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sociology and You. Too

Friday, May 4th, 2018

A later (circa 2008) version of this American High School textbook that has a clean, attractive, design and some interesting content. Might well be worth considering as supplementary material to your existing resources, particularly because it is free…

I’ve previously posted an earlier version of this American High School textbook that seems to have gone through a number of different editions, the latest of which may have been around 2014 before being “retired” (as they say in Contract Killer circles and also, apparently, American Publishing).

This version dates from around 2008 and uses the same chapter categories as its predecessor. There are however design changes, although these are fairly cosmetic (a new picture here, a different typeface there) and, more importantly, changes to the text that brings it a little more up-to-date. Given it was originally published around 10 years ago, it’s never going to completely replace your current textbook / resources. Where it covers all the “standard stuff” (research methods, classic studies and theories…) this isn’t really a problem and I’d consider using it to supplement existing resources. There are, for example, opportunities for discussion, self-assessment and the like sprinkled liberally through the book.

One thing you’ll probably note is that, by-and-large, there isn’t a great deal of depth or breadth to the coverage of different topics. This is partly a consequence of the design – the liberal use of pictures, graphics and tables allied to the “Creative Use of White Space” ethos leaves a lot less space for text – and partly, I assume, the level at which it’s aimed. On the other hand, some ideas / topics are dealt with in rather more depth than you might expect. A section on Ritzer and McDonaldisation in one of the Focus on Research sections, for example, goes into some depth and detail about the concept and it’s application to developments in Higher Education – something you’re not likely to see in the majority of UK textbooks.

The sections I’ve read (admittedly not that many – I’m a Very Busy Person and I have “people” do that sort of thing for me) strike me as both interesting and very readable. Although most of the examples and illustrations have, understandably given the target audience, an American focus this might be turned to your advantage at times by providing students with a comparative edge to their studies. Alternatively just ignore them or replace them with UK alternatives… (more…)

Sociology and You: A Free Textbook

Monday, April 30th, 2018

This American High School textbook just scrapes into the “published in the 21st century” criterion I set myself for finding free, out-of-print sociology texts, but I’ve included it because although it’s obviously a little dated – at least in terms of content if not necessarily design – Sociology and You (2001) was probably one of the first to push at the boundaries of textbook design for “Grades 9 – 12”. This, by my calculations, means 15-18 year olds and if you’re wondering, as we probably all are, how this fits into the UK grading system I’d say the text equates to “high GCSE” / AS-level. But this is only a rough guess – there are bits that could fit into A2 – so if you want to use it with your students it’s probably a case of suck-it-and-see before you let them have copies.

The book itself exhibits most of the features we now take for granted in contemporary textbooks: short bursts of text, lots of big colourful pictures, key terms identified and defined, tables, boxouts, short readings, simple assessments and white space.

Lots and lots of white space.

In other words, anyone familiar with UK A-level texts over the past few years will see this as very familiar territory.

Except, of course, most of the examples and illustrations are drawn from North America. Which is okay if you’re North American (or are really into comparative sociology / North Americana) but not quite so brilliant if you live and study elsewhere.

Keeping this in mind, if you decide to have a look at the text I’ve made it available it as either a complete textbook or by chapter. I’ve provided the latter option because there are some chapters, such as those on “Sport” or “Political and Economic Institutions”, you may not need or want: put bluntly, you’re probably not going to teach stuff that’s not on the A-level Spec.

You can also use the chapter option to see if or how the text might fit with your teaching because, as I’ve noted, judging the level is a little problematic given differences in both the US and UK grade system and the skill levels each requires of its students at different ages.

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An Open-Source Sociology Textbook

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

A free (open-source) Sociology textbook (plus resources) that could be used to supplement your existing textbooks and classroom resources.

While the idea of “open-source software” – programs created, modified and freely distributed to users who also contribute in various ways to their subsequent development – has long-been a feature of digital technology, it seems a little odd the concept hasn’t been applied to other areas, such as textbook publishing, given how easy it is to collaborate, design, publish and distribute books largely indistinguishable from those produced by professional publishers.

Whatever the reason, the free textbook “Introduction to Sociology” – created and distributed by the OpenStax College and now in its 2nd edition – is the first sociology textbook I’ve come across organised around open-source principles (as opposed to simply being freely distributed by its author).

What this means is that not only can you use the text as you would any other textbook (giving students individual digital or paper copies, for example, or integrating it into Canvas if you use this free LMS) you also have a wide range of format options, most of which (reading online, downloading to desktop, viewing on mobile devices) are free. If you really must have a properly bound copy this can be purchased for around £16 / $30.

Once you get past the various viewing options you’ll find a textbook created by a number of different authors (all, I assume, employed by Rice University?) designed primarily as a primer for American undergraduates taking an introductory module in Sociology (“Sociology 101”). This level, from what I’ve read of the text, seems perfectly acceptable for A-level Sociology (which probably says something about either the American or the British education system).

While you need to take into account both its target audience (most of the text, illustrations, examples and so forth reference American society – it is, in other words, pretty ethnocentric) and some of the preoccupations of American Sociology (a focus on areas like race and ethnicity, for example, that isn’t given such a central focus by A-level Sociology) the textbook covers areas that will be very familiar and useful to a-level sociologists. These include:

• Culture and Socialisation
• Family
• Education
• Health
• Inequality
• Religion
• Deviance
• Media

Although most of these aren’t covered in any great depth – and you’ll find significant parts of UK Sociology Specifications aren’t addressed – there’s plenty of useful material here for a-level students and teachers. While it’s probably not going to replace your main sociology textbook it could be worth considering as an additional text to supplement the existing resources you use – particularly because of its portability across different devices.

In addition, there are a number of Instructor and Student resources you can sign-up for. To access some – such as PowerPoint Presentations and the Test Bank – you need to register with a school / college email account, but the resources are free once you’ve registered.

It’s also possible, even if you don’t want to contribute suggestions for future updates, to add “community resources” to support the text. While there’s not much available at the moment, one example of these resources is a series of short video lectures you may or may not find helpful.

Education PowerPoints: Part 2

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

Part 2 of the Education Presentations gives you more of the same, only less of it.

More PowerPoints, in other words, but fewer of them than in Part 1.

Most of these are fairly straightforward “Teaching Presentations” but some contain YouTube videos (again, I’ve converted the links so they will play directly inside the Presentation) and one, the Social Class revision exercise, is a simple “sift-and-sort” activity designed to help students clarify “inside” and “outside” school factors in class differential achievement.

The Presentations, in no particular order:

1. Marketisation (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
2. Social Class – revision exercise
3. Ethnicity and Achievement (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
4. Material Deprivation (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
5. Anti-School Subcultures (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
6. Feminist / Postmodernist Perspectives (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
7. The Purpose of Education

Education PowerPoints: Part 1

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

Alongside the Revision Guides I seem to have collected a large number of Education PowerPoints that, while not explicitly geared towards revision, could be used in this way. Alternatively, they could just be used as part of your normal classroom teaching.

The Presentations are by a mix of authors (where known) but the majority are by Leigh Rust-Ashford, so they have the same “look and feel” and follow a similar format – clear teaching points, a few questions and simple exercises, a couple of illustrative YouTube videos (the only changes I’ve made to the files, apart from deleting dead links, is to format the video links so they use the PowerPoint video player) and so forth.

I’ve split the Presentations into two parts, in no particular order:

1. Meritocracy
2. Functionalism (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
3. Interactionism (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
4. Organisation of Education
5. Postmodernism4. organisation-of-the-education-system (N Sharmin)
6. Working Class Culture and Achievement (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
7. Locality and Achievement (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
8. Gender and Achievement (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
9. Class and Achievement (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
10. Postmodern education (Leigh Rust-Ashford)
11. Marxism (Leigh Rust-Ashford)

Sociology Revision Booklets: 5. Education

Monday, April 9th, 2018

Another day, another set of A-level revision booklets.

This time, as you may have guessed from the title, it’s the turn of Education with 5 resource packs of varying length, depth and complexity for your revising pleasure. Where known I’ve identified the author and, as ever, most are AQA with the odd-sop thrown in the direction of OCR.

Again, as ever, you need to check the Spec. you’re using to ensure you’re not revising stuff that’s no-longer relevant (probably not a sentence anyone should ever have to write, but what the heck). Where possible I’ve kept the materials in Word format because that makes editing them easier for everyone.

The materials are mainly Notes – some very comprehensive, some a bit more revision-friendly – with a few questions thrown in for good measure. (more…)

Your Own Personal (YouTube) Examiner: Part 2

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

A couple of months ago I posted about TeacherSociology’s YouTube Channel and its AQA exam technique videos and on the basis that if, in these testing times, you just can’t get enough of Sociology Examiners (particularly Senior Examiners – I’m not altogether sure what the difference between these and Non-Senior examiners might be, but I’m sure it must be Important) walking your students through exam papers, Mr Blackburn’s new YouTube Channel does exactly that.

The format is a simple screencast focused on an on-screen exam paper, with Mr Blackburn highlighting, annotating and talking you through the questions. This includes:

• how to decode exam questions

• exactly what the examiner is asking you to do for each question

• how to write high mark answers that covers everything required by the examiner.

At the time of posting there are two screencasts available, each lasting for around 15 minutes:

1. AS Paper 1 (Education) , covering all the questions.

2. A2 Paper 2 (Global Development), covering both 10 and 20 mark questions.

If you’re teaching or studying either of these AQA Sociology Units, this Channel is well worth a little of your time.

Leave Nothing to Chance: An Education Simulation

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sociology Sim: An Exercise in Inequality

Friday, March 9th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Beat The Bourgeoisie: A Simulation

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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