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Posts Tagged ‘education’

The (Social) Magic of Sport?

Friday, March 19th, 2021

This Lesson Outline uses the analogy of top-level sporting achievement – and the economic, cultural and social resources needed to reach this level – to encourage students to understand and apply concepts of economic, cultural and social capital to explain how and why apparently “individualistic explanations” of behaviour can be more-coherently explained sociologically.

This is particularly useful to demonstrate how apparently “natural” individual attributes – such as sporting ability – invariably involve underlying social inequalities.

As a bonus, the Outline can also be used to introduce Bourdieu’s concept of social magic.

For many Modules in Sociology you will, at some point, invariably find yourself contrasting “naturalistic” explanations of behaviour with socio-cultural explanations:

  • family life – domestic labour as “natural” to women.
  • education – some children are just “naturally” more intelligent than others
  • social inequality – some people are born to be more successful than others
  • crime – some people are naturally predisposed to break the rules.
  • While contemporary sociologists are probably not as wedded to the kind of cultural determinism you find in some textbooks – there is clearly some interplay between the physical (biological, genetic) and social environments across a range of behaviours – it’s useful to be able to demonstrate how and why cultural factors have a massive part to play in explaining people’s behaviour.

    In this respect it makes sense to encourage students to explore how and why social factors underpin and influence apparently natural behaviours – and to do this in a way that can be repeatedly applied whenever they’re confronted by the claim that this-or-that behaviour is explicable by purely “natural” factors.

    In order to do this, this Lesson Outline uses an example of behaviour that appears to be wholly-natural – playing top-level (international) professional sport – to demonstrate how a variety of social factors have crucial roles to play in explaining how and why people come to play sport at this level.

    Lesson Outline…

    Gender and Subject Choice: Archer et al (2013)

    Monday, March 15th, 2021

    The relationship between gender and subject choice in post-16 UK education is both persistent and well-known and has produced a range of explanations – some sociological, some not (Skelton et al (2007), for example, note the widespread belief  ‘natural’ differences – babies are born with an inbuilt biological and / or genetic predilection – “push boys and girls towards some curriculum subjects whilst avoiding others” or the argument “boys and girls have different brain structures that result in their gender differentiated skills and abilities”).

    Is “science” associated with a specific (and unappealing) type of masculinity?

    Most recent sociological analysis, however, has tended to focus on gender identities and how concepts of masculinity and femininity, constructed and reconstructed inside and outside the classroom in a reflexive way (how personal identities are influenced and shaped by social identities), contribute to gendered subject choices – and this research is another useful and accessible contribution to the debate.

    Methods

    Analysis was based on the ASPIRES project, “a five-year, longitudinal exploration of science aspirations and career choice among 10–14-year-olds in England”. This involved:

  • a quantitative online survey administered to a sample of over 9000 10/11-year-old students with subsequent phases at ages 12 and 14
  • in-depth, repeat interviews with pupils at age 10/11; 12/13 and 13/14).
  • in-depth interviews with their parents (once when their children are 10/11 and again at 13/14).
  • over 10,000 students from 279 schools (248 state schools; 31 independent schools) completed the questionnaire between October and December 2009. Subsequent surveys took place in autumn 2011 and autumn 2012). After data-cleansing, this left 9319 students in the sample.
  • the sample represented all regions of the country and was roughly proportional to the overall national distribution of schools in England by attainment and proportion of students eligible for free school meals.
  • the completed surveys comprised 51% boys and 49% girls. Ethnically, 75% were white, 9% Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi heritage), 8% Black (Black African, Black Caribbean), 1 % Far Eastern, 7% mixed or other.
  • The survey asked about:
  • aspirations in science
  • attitudes towards school science
  • self-concept in science
  • images of scientists
  • participation in science-related activities outside school
  • parental expectations
  • parental school involvement
  • parental attitudes towards science
  • peer attitudes towards school and towards school science.
  • Selected Findings

    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…

    Gender in Education 3 – 19: A Fresh Approach

    Saturday, February 20th, 2021

    Gender and Education” consists of “a spectrum of views commissioned and published by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers” and while it was published in 2004 many of the ideas, themes and concepts discussed are still, as you might expect, extant in contemporary Sociologies of Education.

    In the main the articles – there are 10 in all – are:

    Click to download…
  • fairly short (7 – 8 pages),
  • reasonably accessible to a-level students,
  • written by academics who’ve subsequently become some of the most well-known and significant writers in UK education (such as, David Gillborn, Louise Archer, Heidi Mirza, Stephen Gorad and Becky Francis)
  • cover various aspects and dimensions of gendered education.
  • The articles include materials that feed directly into the A-level Specification – the gendered curriculum, gendered subject choices, intersections of class, race and gender and their impact on attainment – as well as those that might be considered more-tangentially perhaps: this might include things like discussion of gender and learning styles (one, as you might expect, that’s a lot more nuanced than the usual uncritical acceptance of style differences), classroom interaction and the uses of gendered spaces and school exclusions.

    While, as I’ve noted, you need to be aware this material was published 17 – 18 years ago there’s definitely stuff here that can contribute to our understanding of contemporary education differences and inequalities – either as a background resource for teachers to select and present to students or as material that can be given directly to students as a way of encouraging them to read more-widely.

    It can also, of course, be used as a comparative resource to assess the extent to which gendered forms of education in Britain have changed.

    Or not as the case may be.

    A-level Sociology Organisers: A new selection

    Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

    It’s been a while since I last posted any A-level Sociology Knowledge Organisers – a combination of both being a bit busy and a relative paucity of resources – and although this is something of a mixed-bunch, some fairly bog-standard stuff plus some rather more interesting efforts – unless you try them you won’t know if they’ll work for you and your students.

    Crime / Globalisation / Theory and Methods

    Crime and Deviance

    Crime and Deviance Questions: less a conventional Knowledge Organiser and more a set of questions with “knowledge answers” (trust me, they’re difficult to accurately describe but you’ll know what I mean when you see them). Covers lots of different areas, from perspectives through globalisation to media

    Crime and Deviance: King Charles 1 School: Again, not your standard Knowledge Organiser, this one combines elements of a glossary with key facts and figures and interesting stuff about crime and class, age, gender and ethnicity (key theories and research, in the main).

    Beliefs in Society Questions: As with their Crime and Deviance counterparts, a set of “questions with knowledge answers”. These cover things like theories of religion, organisations and secularisation.

    Families and Households

    Sociology Revision Notes: As the name suggests, less an Organiser, per se, and more a set of Organised Notes. These cover a lot of different areas but the Notes themselves are fairly sparse (and not a little superficial in places).

    Structures, family functions and diversity: Clearly constructed Organiser that identifies some of the main features of family life with the emphasis on diversity. There’s also stuff on marriage and divorce, conjugal roles and family change.

    Education

    Perspectives and Categories: Neatly constructed Organiser that identifies some of the main ideas students need to cover in terms of perspectives like Functionalism and Marxism and categories like class, gender and ethnicity.

    Education

    Learning Tables: These are laid-out as a set of Notes covering a couple of aspects of education – Marketisation / Privatisation plus Ethnic Differences in Educational Achievement. There’s also a reasonable Table looking at Researching Education that’s useful for methods in context.

    Methods

    Evaluating Research Methods: In the main, a set of tables that cover the advantage sand disadvantages of different research methods.

    Miscellaneous

    Crime / Globalisation / Theory and Methods: Extensive set of Learning Tables that, judging by the different designs, have been constructed by different teachers (or the same teacher at different times…). Most are colourful and interesting in terms of how they display essential ideas and information. One or two are just bare-bones efforts but overall, well-worth the download…

    GCSE Sociology Knowledge Organisers

    Friday, February 5th, 2021

    Over the past couple of years I’ve posted a whole load of Sociology Knowledge Organisers (or Learning Tables as they’re sometimes known) and they continue – along with their Psychology counterparts – to be some of the most-popular posts on the site.

    Which must mean something.

    The last batch, however, seems to have been posted nearly 2 years ago, which means I either lost interest or, more-probably, exhausted the supply.

    In either case – and they’re probably not mutually-exclusive – you’ll be glad to know that while I was at a loose-end I decided to have a look around to see if there was anything new available and was pleasantly surprised to find there was.

    It seems schools and colleges have been busy encouraging teachers to create Knowledge Organisers like they were going out of fashion (although, by the time I get around to posting this, they probably will have).

    While there’s probably a sociological debate to be had about this, this is not the place and I’m not the person to initiate it. So, whatever your particular take on the question of Knowledge Organisers – as “just-another-tool in the teacher’s toolkit” to “a management tool that will revolutionise learning” – you can rest-assured that all you’re going to get here are a load of links to a variety of different types of Organiser.

    The twist, this time, is that these are all for GCSE Sociology (AQA mostly) because, unless I’m very much mistaken (unlikely I know) I haven’t previously posted any Organisers for this level…

    Click to see the Organisers

    Differential Educational Achievement: “Must Try Harder?”

    Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

    Explanations for differences in educational achievement based around concepts like class, gender, ethnicity and, for rather different reasons, age are well-known and generally covered comprehensively at High School and A-level, in relation to both “outside” and “inside” school factors. In terms of the former this includes a variety of material and / or cultural factors centred around the home, while for the latter the focus has tended to be on ideas like teacher labelling and, more-recently, applications of concepts like school climate.

    Educational Effort: Parents, Teachers, Students…

    In general terms, therefore, explanations at this level tend towards either the broadly structural (class, gender and ethnic differences) or the broadly actional (such as teacher – pupil relationships).

    More-recently a further, transgressive, approach has sometimes been introduced to acknowledge how concepts like class, gender and ethnicity intersect within educational systems to produce sometimes variable achievement outcomes. The most obvious example here is that while girls generally achieve more in the UK educational system than boys, upper class boys generally outperform middle-class and working-class girls. There is, however, a further dimension here, epitomised by De Fraja et al (2005).

    Their research took a more empirical approach that looked at “causes of differential achievement” by examining how relations at the level of the home, the school and the individual intersect in terms of “effort”. Or as they put it:

    This paper is based on the very simple observation that the educational attainment of students is affected by the effort put in by those participating in the education process: the schools attended by the students, the students’ parents, and of course the students themselves”.

    Their research in this respect offers a more-granular approach to understanding the specific mechanisms that account for differences in educational achievement at the individual level – something that could be helpful for teachers and students in two ways:

    Firstly, it provides an explanation for “deviant” achievement differences, such as some working-class children gaining significant educational achievements “against the odds” or some upper-class children not achieving in line with their social and economic peers.

    Secondly, their findings create a lot of space for the application of a wide range of specific explanations for differential achievement. This might include, for example, consideration of how concepts of social and cultural capital may be applied to pupil-teacher relationships.

    Main Findings and Methods

    Sociological Research Articles

    Thursday, December 17th, 2020

    I found this document lurking on a hard drive and while I’ve absolutely no idea from where it originally came, the metadata says “2008” and since it’s called “Sociological Research articles (since 2000)” it’s a fair bet it contains articles published between those two dates.

    As you can see, very little gets past me.

    Digging a little deeper – i.e. I read the blurb inside the cover – it’s an old Connect Publications err…publication that seems to have once been part of a CD-Rom (remember them? Me neither).

    Anyway, Connect was a company originally created and run by Pete Langley before he moved on to bigger and Even Bigger things so I’m guessing it’s long out of print (if that’s the right way to describe a little piece of shiny plastic filled with digital data?) and no-one’s going to argue the toss.

    The involvement of Janis Griffiths, Jonathon Blundell and Steve Chapman (although the latter only rates a “Thanks”, not a “Name on the Door” credit, so I’ve no idea what his involvement was. I’m sure he’ll probably tell me sometime) suggests, to me at least, some sort of ATSS (RiP) involvement, but I could be wrong.

    The pack is basically a set of articles, drawn from what looks like an early 2000 AQA Spec. that covered stuff that’s still standard on most UK Sociology Specs (Families and Households, Culture and Identity, Poverty and Welfare, Education, Health, Religion and Beliefs, Mass Media, Crime and Deviance, Stratification and Differentiation), each of which is broken-down into a set of easily-digestible chunks running across no-more – and no-less – than 2 x A4 pages:

  • Context
  • Methods
  • Key Findings
  • Evaluation
  • Links to Key Debates
  • Each section has between 3 and 7 articles and these are roughly representative of the general popularity of the Module in question (crime and deviance has quite a few, poverty and welfare not so many…) and while the articles are around 15 years old there’s still some useful information here.

    Plus, if you’re so inclined, the general thinking behind the project is a neat template for presenting more contemporary articles to your students (or, at least, getting them to think in terms of the categories from which each article is constructed).

    Sociology Delivery Guides

    Monday, December 7th, 2020

    At some point around 2015 – presumably just in advance of the new Sociology Specification – the OCR Exam Board burst into action by creating not just the Lesson Elements previously posted and a short-but-useful set of Topic Exploration Packs on various sociological perspectives, but, more-importantly for our current purpose, a series of Lesson Delivery Guides designed to, err, guide teachers delivery of lessons I guess.

    Unlike their elemental counterparts, the Delivery Guides cover the complete Specification in terms of Modules, though obviously not in terms of lessons because that would be asking a bit too much.

    For the sake of consistency and clarity, each Guide is structured in terms of three main categories:

    1. Curriculum content is a brief overview of what’s covered in the OCR Module. If you follow a different Specification you can happily ignore this section, although since most UK Specs have a degree of overlap it can be useful to check-out what’s being covered.

    2. Thinking conceptually identifies some of the key concepts involved in the Module in greater or lesser detail (Family, for example, has a comprehensive conceptual coverage, Research Methods not so much). Again, even if you don’t follow the OCR Spec. there’s a lot here that will be relevent to other Specs.

    3. Thinking contextually offers a series of teaching activities designed to get students thinking about the content being studied (although, for some reason, the Socialisation activities also include the aforementioned Lesson Elements, whereas the Globalisation activities do not. Go figure…).

    While the activities are tailored to the OCR Spec., teachers of other Specs. are likely to find some activities relevant to their own Spec. so it’s worth having a look through the relevant Guides just to see if there’s something worth pinching…

    Click to see the guides

    Sociology Lesson Elements

    Sunday, December 6th, 2020
    A Lesson Element…

    This set of resources from the OCR Exam Board is, as you might expect, designed to support teaching and learning for their A-Level Specification. While some of the resources may fall outside the remit of other Sociology Specifications this isn’t to say that teachers of the latter won’t, with a little bit of judicious editing, be able to adapt stuff here to their own particular teaching needs.

    Lesson elements are, by-and-large, teaching and learning activities presented in two forms:

    1. PowerPoint Presentations designed for whole class consumption.
    2. Word documents designed for individual and small-group work (most have accompanying teacher instructions packs that include model activity answers).

    As far as I’ve been able to find – and believe me I’ve been led a merry dance around the Internet trying to collect these resources before eventually finding most of them in various nooks and crannies on the OCR site – the Elements only cover two areas of the Spec.

    1. Introducing socialisation, culture and identity covers some basic Introductory ideas and concepts taught by all sociology teachers at the start of a course.

    2. Globalisation and the digital social world covers various aspects of globalisation as it relates to areas like social media, social inequality and education. While I think this is pretty-much an OCR-specific Module there are elements here that teachers of other Specs. will find useful.

    As far as I can tell (and, as noted above, I’ve really tried to find out) these are the only two Lesson Elements that have been created. If you know otherwise, I’d be grateful to be pointed in their direction. It may be that these were intended to be some sort of “starter resource” for teachers and no others were produced.

    Although when I’ve looked at the Psychology Lesson Elements available there seem to be roughly 3 times more.

    Not that I’ve actually counted them.

    That would be a little sad.

    Perhaps they just ran out of money, time, patience, interest or whatever (please delete or add-to as you see fit) when it came to Sociology?

    Either way, there are some interesting resources here that you might want to examine:

    Click to access the resources

    500 Free Education Images

    Friday, November 6th, 2020

    If you create your own resources it’s highly-likely you’re going to want to use some sort of images to give them a little sparkle.

    A seventh-grader walks by a Black History Month display at Sutton Middle School on her way to class.
    Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

    And to do this you’ve either got to take the pictures yourself or “license” them from someone else. In other words, you Google what you need and no-one’s any the wiser (although if you’re lifting stuff from Corporate Entities like Ge**y – I’m not going to provide a link because they are an insufferably awful company – you’re going to have to contend with watermarked images that look a little naff).

    You’re also going to run the risk of a “Lawyer’s Letter” that, if we lived in an equitable world, would be seen as demanding money with menaces.

    But since we don’t, it isn’t.

    I’ve singled-out Ge**y but most, if not all, Corporate Image Mills behave in much the same sort of way.

    An additional problem is some schools and colleges laying-claim to copyright over the materials their employees (i.e. teachers) create for use in their classroom. Aside from a general managerial desire to be dickish, one reason for wanting to exert a copyright claim is that, somewhere down the line, an institution could market or license these resources without the need to get the agreement of the creator.

    Or, indeed, remunerate them.

    While this is a complex legal area in the UK – proving a teacher produced resources for use in their classroom on “school time” could be tricky – using copyrighted images in such resources would, at best, be problematic.

    There is, however, a Third Way (remember that?) and this involves sourcing images from organisations that operate under various Creative Commons rules and licenses.

    A sixth-grade math teacher writes on the board during a lesson about music and math.
    Photo by Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

    All that’s generally required to use an image is to include a credit to the creator – in this case, step-forward “Allison Shelley” and her completely-free “American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action” pix.

    The collection consists of 500 “original print-quality photos” of people in a variety of educational contexts and categories – from pre-school to high school, computer labs to outdoor learning, teacher to – you probably get the picture (pun totally intended).

    Open Source

    If this isn’t enough, the burgeoning OER (Open Educational Resource) Movement – mostly, it must be admitted, based in and around the United States – provides a range of Open-Source textbooks including substantial volumes for Sociology and Psychology.

    An open-source text is one that anyone can use as is for free.

    Alternatively, you can take the base text and modify it – add stuff you need, take away stuff you don’t – to your heart’s desire. This could be very useful if you wanted to take and adapt some of the original text to create an original resource.

    As long as you acknowledge the source, you’re home free.

    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.

    More Podcasts with Pictures: Ms Sugden’s Online Classroom

    Saturday, October 3rd, 2020

    If you’re looking for video resources for online teaching or flipped learning (or possibly even a combination of the two) Alexandra Sugden’s YouTube Channel is worth checking-out if you’re teaching any or all of the following:

  • Crime and Deviance
  • Research Methods
  • Theory
  • Education
  • Religion and Beliefs
  • The Channel’s aimed at the AQA Spec. but some, if not necessarily all, of the films will be useful for other Specs (Research Methods, for example, is fairly uniform across most College / A-level Specifications).

    The format is a familiar “podcasts with pictures” one with Ms. Sugden narrating a series of static slides in a lecture-style format, with individual films ranging from 3 – 30 minutes, depending on the topic and what’s being discussed.

    This covers everything from general topic teaching to applying the PERVERT method to Research Methods exam questions or constructing example paragraphs when answering essay-type questions (although, personally, I’m not convinced by the claim students can apply strain theory to white collar crime using the concept of relative deprivation. It’s an innovative argument, perhaps, but one that stretches things just a little too far…).

    ShortCuts to Sociology: free film collection

    Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

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

    Strain Theory

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

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

    So I did.

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

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

    click to see list of films

    GCSE Sociology Freebies

    Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

    The Sociology Support web site has some new and interesting freebies available for GCSE Sociology, the first of which is the Spec Check Pack.

    This consists of neat, one-page, summaries of the AQA Specification content (including an indication of Key Studies) that students (and teachers…) should find useful for both tracking progress through the course and for revision.

    The Pack has four pdf documents covering Social Stratification, Education, Family and Deviance.

    It might also be worth your while picking-up their free “Introducing Structural Theories” resource, again for AQA GCSE, that’s described as:

    A lesson for GCSE Sociology students introducing the main principles of structural perspectives”.

    This can be downloaded as both a PowerPoint Presentation and pdf file.

    As if that’s not enough, there’s also a free CPD “Introduction to teaching excellent sociology for non-specialists” Webinar on Thursday 27th August 4:45-5:45pm.

    You’ll find registration details on the web site (plus details of their new online CPD courses if you’re interested).

    UK Schools: Social Mobility or Cultural Reproduction?

    Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

    One of the persistent debates around education is the extent to which it serves as an agency of social mobility, as opposed to one of cultural reproduction:

    Mobility proponents, for example, argue education – and the credentials it creates – is one of, if not the, most important sources of social mobility in democratic societies: the sons and daughters of different social classes compete against one another for educational qualifications on a reasonably-level playing field.

    Reproduction theorists, on the other hand, argue education systems have the appearance of fairness and equal competition while, in reality, Higher Economic Status (HES) parents are able, through a combination of their higher levels of economic, social and cultural capital, to “play the system” to ensure their sons and daughters are the ultimate winners in the education game.

    (more…)

    Education Workbooks

    Monday, May 25th, 2020

    This set of resources, created by Lizzie Read, covers different aspects of Education across three main categories:

    1. The Role of Education is a 50-page+ resource that includes a Teacher version and a Student version.

    2. Differential Achievement is split into two sub-categories: Class and Gender (with a Teacher version and a Student version) and Ethnicity – also with a Teacher version and a Student version.

    3. Changes in UK Education looks at some changes since 1988 – particularly in relation to types of school – and has both a Teacher version and a Student version.

    As with the first set on Families and Households, these resources were originally distributed as PowerPoint Presentations and I’ve converted them to Pdf files in case you want to use them as Workbooks.

    The files also contain occasional references to particular “textbook pages” that you might want to update, if you follow the OCR Specification, or change / remove if you follow some other Specification. You can do this by editing the following PowerPoint versions of the files (and optionally saving them as Pdf files):

    1. The Role of Education: Teacher PowerPoint | Student PowerPoint

    2. Differential Achievement:

    Class and Gender: Teacher PowerPoint | Student PowerPoint

    Ethnicity: Teacher PowerPoint | Student PowerPoint

    3. Changes in UK Education: Teacher PowerPoint | Student PowerPoint

    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.

    Education: 4. Role and Function: 2. Marxism and Neo-Marxism

    Sunday, May 10th, 2020

    marxism

    For traditional Marxism the main role and function of education is cultural reproduction – a concept based on a different interpretation of secondary socialisation to that favoured by their Functionalist (Structural) counterparts. Althusser (1971), for example, argues the reproduction of capitalism involves each new generation being taught the knowledge and skills required in the workplace, as well as children being orientated to “the values of capitalist reproduction”. These might involve ideas like emphasising individual effort and achievement, encouraging inter and intra-group competition (competition between groups – such as men and women – and within groups, such as age categories like young and old) and encouraging ideas about the private accumulation of wealth. In turn, ideas about co-operation, the socialisation of wealth and so forth are marginalised – or rarely, if ever, discussed – within the classroom.

    For traditional Marxists, therefore, schools don’t just select, differentiate and allocate children in the interests of “society as a whole” on some form of meritocratic basis. Rather, their role is to ensure the children of powerful economic elites achieve the levels of education required to follow in their parents’ (exploitative) footsteps. The role of education for Althusser was to educate most people “just enough” to be useful employees and a small number “more than enough” to take up high-powered elite working roles.

    There’s more. Quite a bit more…

    Education: 4. Role and Function: 1. Functionalism and Neo (New Right) Functionalism

    Friday, May 8th, 2020

    functionalism

    Functionalist arguments about the role of education focus on the various ways education links to other social institutions, such as the family and the workplace, as part of an overall network of connected institutions. The education system is, in this respect, conceptualised as a bridge between these institutions in two broad ways:

    1. On an institutional level, modern social systems involve different types of work and must develop ways of allocating and managing human resources to ensure they are used efficiently and effectively (such as not producing too many unskilled workers if there is no demand for their services).

    2. On an individual level education functions as an agency of secondary socialisation to, as Parsons (1959) argues, “broaden the individual’s experience” of the social world and prepare children for adult role relationships in the workplace and wider society.

    Meritocracy?

    For the education system to function efficiently on both levels it must be meritocratic. Rewards, such as well-paid, high status, work, are earned through individual abilities and efforts, such as working hard in school to gain qualifications. Merit-based systems are also competitive: different levels of reward are given for different levels of achievement. Competition must be based on equality of opportunity: if some are disadvantaged, through something like sexual or racial discrimination, society cannot be sure “the best people” occupy the most important, prestigious and well-rewarded adult roles.

    A meritocratic system involves, by definition, different levels of reward for different levels of effort and achievement – which means a major role of education is social differentiation; children have to be “made different”, on the basis of their individual merits, if education is to meet the requirements of a differentiated economy (one with a variety of different types of work, each requiring different levels of skills and knowledge). A meritocratic education system always, therefore, involves inequalities of outcome: children must leave the education system with different types and levels of qualifications appropriate to their efforts and achievements. As Parsons (1959) argues:

    It is fair to give differential rewards for different levels of achievement, so long as there has been fair access to opportunity and fair that these rewards lead on to higher-order opportunities for the successful”.

    Education systems are, in this respect, viewed as functionally necessary for both the individual – as a means of finding their place in wider society – and “society in general” because education performs a vital and necessary differentiation function in advanced industrial societies

    The development of mass education is, therefore, explained in terms of functional differentiation. That is, the idea institutions develop to perform particular specialised functions, such as “work” and “education”. If, for whatever reason, the needs of one institution are not being adequately met, tensions develop within the system that threaten its stability and ability to function – the development of industrial forms of work, for example, required a newly literate and numerate workforce and without these skills the economy could neither function nor develop. Where other institutions, such as the family, cannot meet this new requirement system stability is threatened and equilibrium can only be restored in one of two ways:

  • an existing institution, such as the family or religion, evolvesto perform the required function. This involves differentiation that occurs within individual institutions; different roles need to be developed if the institution is to perform its new function.
  • a new institution, such as formal education, arises to ‘fulfil the need’.
  • While the former is always a possibility, the scale of economic change as societies industrialise overwhelms the ability of existing institutions to cope with the new changes and demands, hence, at some point in their development all societies will necessarily develop a specialised institution (education) as a means of restoring system stability.

    The concept of functional differentiation is particularly important because it suggests how functionalists see the broad relationship between economic and educational (or cultural) institutions; the latter develops and adapts to reflect and support the former. One important dimension to this relationship is that differentiation within the workplace is reflected by differentiation within the education system. A general process across all modern education systems is, for example, some kind of division of pupils along academic and vocational lines – a distinction that’s been variously justified by reference to ideas like:

  • natural differences in intelligence and aptitude.
  • Individuals choosing different educational routes: some favour more-practical and some favour more-academic routes.
  • the particular needs of the economy in the sense, structurally, of a need for people to leave education with skills that will fit them to the available jobs.
  • In Britain, for example, the 1944 Education Act that established free, universal, education, explicitly addressed education’s relationship with the workplace through a distinction between:

  • Grammar schools designed for academic pupils who were destined to move-on to University and professional employment.
  • Secondary Modern schools designed for vocational pupils who were destined to follow a practical or technical route into the workforce.
  • This type of functional division is reflected in secondary education systems worldwide:

  • India has both academic and vocational (school and profession-based) routes through secondary education.
  • Pakistan has similarly developed academic and technical routes.
  • Mauritius organises secondary education in a slightly different way but has also developed a distinction between academic routes into the workplace and a form of prevocational education for around 5% of the school population.
  • The separation of academic and vocational educational routes, therefore, reflects the idea of functional differentiation and specialisation in terms of two basic forms of work:

  • professional careers requiring higher levels of abstract knowledge and lower levels of practical expertise.
  • non-professionalwork requiring higher levels of practical expertise and lower levels of abstract knowledge.
  • While in Britain, at least, the rather clunky physical segregation of “academic” and “vocational” pupils into separate schools largely – but not totally – disappeared with the development of Comprehensive education in the mid-1970s, the functional requirement to competitively “sift and sort” pupils of different aptitudes and abilities into different spheres arguably continues with various in-school practices such as streaming, setting and banding and external testing / examinations at 7, 11, 14 and 16 (GCSE).

    While the specific means of “sifting and sorting pupils” may have changed since Davis and Moore (1945) argued that the education system existed to ensure that “those who are most able and talented intellectually” are allocated work roles that offer the highest rewards in terms of income, power and status, the broad sentiment remains true 75 years later. For traditional Functionalism the most functionally important economic roles must be filled by the most able, capable and competent members of society. The relationship between educational systems and the workplace, therefore, is one where “Education is the proving ground for ability and hence the selective agency for placing people in different statuses according to their abilities”.

    (more…)

    Education: 1. Structure and Organisation

    Friday, May 1st, 2020

    The structure of any institution, such as education, refers to the general relationship between its constituent parts – such as, in this instance, teachers and pupils – and how they are organised to achieve certain aims, such as providing children and young adults with some form of socially-approved, sanctioned and certificated form of education.

    Old School (circa 1905)

    Organisation, therefore, refers to the objectives an institution must fulfil in order to meet its structural aims: it may, for example:

  • develop some way for teachers and pupils to formally interact (such as a classroom – real or virtual).
  • create status hierarchies involving both adults and pupils so that both are externally (from each other) and internally (within particular groups) differentiated. Teachers, for example, are a group externally differentiated from their pupils, while pupils may be internally differentiated on the basis of things like age (different year groups) and measured ability (through techniques like streaming, setting or banding).
  • There are, of course, potentially many different and varied ways to both structure and organise education. The recent (2020) coronavirus pandemic, for example, saw a temporary mass organisational change in UK schooling, away from traditional forms of face-to-face real-world classroom interaction towards virtual forms of interaction such as video-conferencing. This suggests, therefore, that such concepts always reflect ideological beliefs about things like:

  • what education means: is it, for example, the simple memorisation and appropriate regurgitation of “facts” or does it involve a more-holistic approach to both understanding and personal well-being?
  • how it should be organised: in terms of things like schools, age-defined classes, online teaching, off-line teaching, child-centred learning, teacher-led learning.
  • what it is designed to achieve: such as the development of well-rounded individuals and citizens or differentiated individuals designed to meet the needs of business corporations.
  • We can start to understand these questions by looking briefly at the historical development of education in Britain. This will help to establish the relationship between structure, organisation and beliefs that can be used to illustrate and inform our understanding of contemporary educational developments to be considered in more detail later in the chapter.

    (more…)

    Top Teams

    Thursday, April 9th, 2020
    Who will be in your starting 11?

    Sociology Support is a site run by experienced (AQA) examiner that offers a range of support for students and teachers through events, such as lectures and workshops and Continuous Professional Development (from marking and grading student answers, through Revision Days to Zoom webinars).

    In addition to the paid stuff, however, they also have a range of free resources that are a little more imaginative than the usual run-of-the-mill materials found online.

    One such offering is the idea of “Top Teams” – a simple but effective revision exercise that helps students organise their thoughts on, in this instance, social class and educational achievement.

    Tweaked…

    The real beauty of this idea, however, is that with a bit of simple tweaking it could be applied in many other contexts – anywhere, in fact, students need to identity and then apply different studies or policies to something.

    It could even be used as a means of getting students think about how to apply different theories, concepts or, at a stretch, methods to different scenarios…

    Five Things To Know About…

    Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

    I’ve long been a fan / proponent of the “5 Things I Know” approach to teaching sociological perspectives – the idea that if a student can grasp 5 significant things about a perspective they can apply that knowledge to answer just about any “theory / perspective” question they may encounter in an exam.

    Theory Take 5 Pdf version - click to download.
    Theory Take 5 Cards

    Vicki Woolven has taken this idea a creative step further with her brilliant-looking Theory Take 5 cards. These identify 5 key points associated with a sociological theorist that students can apply in their answers to 8 – 15 mark exam questions – although there’s nothing to say this level of knowledge couldn’t equally be applied to essay-type answers.

    The cards cover 30 theorists distributed across areas like Family, Education and Crime and are available in both pdf and PowerPoint formats.

    The latter is useful if you want to add your own cards to the deck because you can use it as an editable template (and it’s easy enough to save the cards in pdf format from PowerPoint).

    These are slightly-edited versions of the originals to remove a reference to Weber as a “Marxist”.

    Are you feeling lucky?

    Saturday, September 14th, 2019
    Well, do you?

    When it comes to Sociology Knowledge Organisers I’m starting to feel like Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry: in all the excitement I’ve kinda lost track of what I have and haven’t posted.

    So, moving quickly past the stuff about “44 Magnum’s” and their undoubted ability to separate parts of your body from other parts, we can go straight to the bit where you’ve got to ask yourself just one question:

    “Do I feel lucky?”

    And if the answer’s “yes” then this small batch of A-level Organisers and Guides from Kate Henney (to add to the GCSE Family and Education Revision Guides I’ve previously posted) should be a very welcome addition to your growing pile. Presupposing you don’t already have them from some other post I’ve forgotten about. In which case, please ignore what follows:

    Family Organiser

    Families includes two types of KO – blank and completed – on:

  • Structures
  • Diversity
  • Nuclear families
  • Alternatives
  • Functions
  • Divorce
  • Changes
  • Education covers the following:

  • Functionalism
  • Marxism
  • Interactionism
  • Types of Schools
  • Social Class
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Question Guide

    Beliefs includes two types of KO – completed and cloze (fill-in-the-gaps):

  • Ideology
  • Religious Change
  • Organisations
  • Social Characteristics
  • Secularisation
  • A-Level Exam Guides – simple overview of question types and how to answer them.

    Key Studies – a list of key names plus a one-line summary of their work for:

  • Families
  • Education
  • Beliefs
  • Crime and Deviance
  • Question Planning Sheet – detailed walkthrough showing how to successfully answer 10 mark education questions.

    The Wider Effects of “Broken Windows”?

    Thursday, September 12th, 2019
    Click to download pdf file

    The impact of so-called “Broken Windows” policing (which invariably turns-out to be an aggressive variant of the policy – Zero-Tolerance Policing (ZTP) – pioneered by New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the New York Police Department commissioner William (Bill) Bratton in the early 1990’s) has been argued over for a good number of years.

    For supporters of the policy it was claimed that ZTP resulted in dramatic falls in both “pervasive” (i.e. relatively minor but persistent misdemeanour crime)  and “headline crime rates” (such as homicide) while critics pointed to the fact these falls seemed to have occurred both across America and in areas where ZTP was not in operation.

    Whatever the truth of the matter, little or no attention has been given to what might be called the “fall-out” from ZTP policies; while their impact on crime might be the subject of heated debate, recent research by Fagin and Legewiea (“Aggressive Policing and the Educational Performance of Minority Youth”, 2019) argues that “the consequences of aggressive policing extend into key domains of social life, with implications for the educational trajectories of minority youth and social inequality more broadly”.

    In this respect they have claimed to demonstrate a causal link between the presence of ZTP in an area and the decline in educational attainment of African American boys (interestingly, there is no correlated fall in African American female attainment, nor that of Hispanic youth generally).

    Their findings, in this respect, are somewhat counter-intuitive in the sense that where neighbourhoods are made safer through the impact of ZTP we would expect to see, at best, improved educational achievement and, at worst, little or no change. This, as they argue, highlights the “hidden costs of aggressive policing programs and suggests that police reformers, policymakers, and researchers should consider these broader implications for assessing the effectiveness of policing.”

    One reason cited for this finding is reduced school attendance (absenteeism) by young African American teenagers during periods of intensive police activity in a neighbourhood. The main drivers of absenteeism, in this respect, appear to have been:

  • a desire and / or need for young African Americans to “stay off the streets” during periods of intense police activity (which itself suggests a belief they would be a primary target for police action)
  • the disruptive effect on families of the arrest of parents / guardians during these periods of activity.
  • In addition, the authors argue that aggressive styles of policing, such as those associated with various forms of ZTP, frequently lead to the development of “frequent and negative interactions with authority figures” and the ensuing sense of discrimination “can undermine educational and potentially other outcomes”.

    Finally, it’s just been pointed-out to me on Twitter that the research offers a really easy way to make synoptic links between Deviance and Education.

    The Rules of the Game

    Friday, August 9th, 2019

    How “predicted grades” and the “personal statement” contribute to the relative failure of high-performing disadvantaged kids in the “game” of university entrance.

    The Rules of the Game - click to download this pdf document.

    While a-level sociology students do a lot of work on education and differential achievement, the narrative in relation to social class tends to focus on “middle class success”, “working class failure” and the various reasons, material and cultural, for this general situation.

    While this is a useful and valuable focus, it does mean students can lose sight of a further dimension to educational inequality, one that is less visible and less researched but which has significant consequences: how even relatively successful working-class kids still tend to lose-out to their middle and upper class peers in the transition from school to higher education and, eventually, from H.E. to the workplace.

    In “The Rules of the Game“, a recent (2017) Report for the Sutton Trust, Gill Wyness looked at two dimensions of inequality experienced by high-performing students from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds:

    Predicted grades

    While there has, over the past few years, been a great deal of debate about whether University places should be awarded once A-level results are known (the Post Qualification Admissions (PQA) system), in England and Wales the “predicted grades” system (school students apply to University before their A-level grades are known and Universities, in turn, make conditional / unconditional offers partly on the basis of the grades “predicted” by their teachers) is still a crucial part of University application.

    Read on macduff…

    Aspiring to Succeed? Education and the New Right

    Monday, June 3rd, 2019
    "The influence of parents, places and poverty on educational attitudes and aspirations"
    Summary Findings

    One of the key features of New Right approaches to explaining social class differences in educational achievement is the attempt to frame the debate in terms of the qualities possessed by individual actors.

    This reductionist approach – reducing complex social processes to their apparently simplest and most basic forms – sees success or failure (as measured by exam grades and entrance into the most prestigious Universities) as a consequence of how individuals apply – or fail to apply – themselves to their studies.

    All things being equal within a “broadly meritocratic education system”, therefore, how do we explain the fact that social class has a strong correlation with exam success or failure: the lower the class, the more-likely the individual is to leave school with few, if any, qualifications?

    While for some New Right theorists (such as Murray in the USA or Saunders in the UK) the answer is found in “natural” IQ class differences, for others the answer involves different orientations to education and, more specifically, the claim that those with higher educational and work aspirations are far more educationally successful than those with low educational and work aspirations.

    The basic argument here, therefore, is that those who “aim high” for high-pay, high-status employment are much more likely to work hard in the education system to fulfil those high aspirations. Those, on the other hand, who have no great aspirations to, desire for or expectations of achieving, such work, see no great incentive in trying to achieve the required qualifications.

    In both instances a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy takes hold: high aspirations lead to a strong desire to work towards and achieve high qualifications; low aspirations results in a lack of effort and a consequential lack of educational success.

    On the face of things, this argument seems to make some sense – if you want something badly enough the chances are you will work diligently towards trying to achieve it – and, as St Clair et. al. (2011) note, there has been a great deal of social policy interest in the possible relationship between aspirations and achievement:

    Politicians and policy-makers are very interested in aspirations. The strong assumption is that raising aspirations will increase educational achievement, while contributing to greater equity and the UK’s economic competitiveness, and that public policy has a key role in ensuring that these ends are attained. Aspirations were a theme of many of the Labour Government’s policy papers on children and young people. They were a key component of The Children’s Plan (2007) and in Aiming High for Young People (2007), and the concerns raised helped to shape the 2009 Inspiring Communities programme. The coalition Government (2010) has continued this interest in raising aspirations, again based on the assumption that aspirations are too low among disadvantaged groups”.

    Sociologically, however, taking the theorised relationship between aspirations and achievement at face value is rather more problematic and one way to evaluate it is to examine the key question of “aspirations”.

    • The good news here is that there has been a lot of research focused specifically on the role of “aspirations” in educational achievement, particularly as it relates to social class.

    • The bad news – at least as far as New Right approaches are concerned – is that this research has found little or no evidence to suggest that aspirations play any significant or meaningful role in explaining social class achievement differences. St Clair et. al. (2011) for example, summarise their findings with the observation that:

    Low aspirations among young people and their families in disadvantaged areas are often seen as explaining their educational and work outcomes. This study challenges that view. It demonstrates that barriers to achievement vary significantly among deprived areas as different factors combine to shape ambitions, and shows that the difficulty for many young people is in knowing how to fulfil their aspirations”.

    Both the full report and a handy summary of its findings are available from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation website.

    In addition, if you want to dig a bit deeper into areas like aspirations, attitudes, behaviour and educational attainment there are three further Research Reports and Summaries you might find helpful:

    Carter-Wall and Whitfield (2012): The role of aspirations, attitudes and behaviour in closing the educational attainment gap.

    Goodman and Gregg (2010) Poorer children’s educational attainment: how important are attitudes and behaviour?

    Hirsch (2007) Experiences of poverty and educational disadvantage.

    Podcasts With Pictures | GCSE

    Monday, May 20th, 2019

    I’ve been meaning to do a post on the growing number of teachers creating video resources for some time and now I’ve finally managed to drag myself away from Far Cry 5 make a bit of time I thought I’d start with a set of GCSE resources from MTO Sociology aimed at the AQA Specification. When I get around to it I’ll do a follow-up post on A-level video resources of which, you might not be surprised to learn, there are many more available.

    Anyway, at the time of writing the MTO Sociology YouTube Channel has 15 or so Sociology resources divided into 4 main playlists:

    Exam Ready takes you through all the information you need to cover in terms of revision in areas like Methods, Family, Education, Deviance and Stratification. These films are 30 – 60 minutes long.

    Themes focuses on concepts (socialisation, gender, class and ethnicity) that crop-up right across the sociology specification and the podcasts focus on how to apply your knowledge of these themes to questions in different areas (such as family or education). These resources are much shorter – between 10 and 20 minutes – to reflect their tighter focus.

    Perspectives provides a brief introduction to Functionalism, Marxism and Feminism and how these perspectives can be applied across different areas of the Specification. Again, these are relatively short films that come-in around the 10-minute mark.

    Questions and Answers seems to be a bit of a pot-luck resource based on whatever MTO Sociology’s students requested. If you’re having problems understanding concepts like the glass ceiling, for example, this resource will be helpful. If you’re not, it probably won’t. Which isn’t a criticism, more a heads-up. The films in this section are around the 15-minute mark.

    Finally, there are a couple more Sociology resources tucked away on the GCSE Humanities playlist that are worth checking-out: How do I answer exam questions? and Model answers and exam feedback.

    When Good Labels Go Bad…

    Sunday, May 19th, 2019
    Bad news…

    One of the enduringly fascinating things about studying sociology is the way it frequently throws up counter-intuitive ideas that lead us, as teachers and students, to question what we think we know about something. Take, for example, the concept of labelling.

    By-and-large, when we discuss labelling in the context of education the focus is generally on the impact of negative labelling, such as the kind that occurs:

    1. Within the school, through things like teacher-attitudes, the impact of organisational processes  like setting, streaming and banding and the like.

    2. Across the education sector in terms of things like institutional labelling – whether a school is rated “good” or “bad” by Ofsted, for example.

    In relation to school status, we can see evidence of the impact of both positive and negative labelling; in terms of the former, being ranked “Outstanding” by Ofsted can be seen as a major pull-factor in relation to not only attracting students per se, but also for attracting those students with high levels of prior educational achievement.

    In the case of the latter, a school negatively labelled as “bad”, “needs improvement” or, in the worst case, “failing”, may struggle to attract students and is unlikely to attract the kinds of high-achieving, largely middle class, students generally associated with “academically-successful” schools it needs to challenge the label (something that links to a further aspect of negative educational labelling: a self-fulfilling prophecy of decline).

    While these kinds of general “labelling effects” are well-known and well-embedded in the sociology canon, a new (2019) piece of research by Greaves et. al.* gives us a slightly different perspective on educational labelling by suggesting that some forms of positive labelling can have unintended negative effects.

    Positive Labelling, Negative Outcomes?

    Click to download full report
    Greaves et. al.

    Greaves et. al. used a combination of the UK Household Longitudinal Study and Ofsted data to test the effect of the published data on student exam performance. In this context we might reasonably expect that a positive Ofsted report might lead, at best, to an improvement in GCSE exam scores or, at worst, no effect at all.

    What the researchers found, however, was that the students of families who received “good news” about their school’s positive Ofsted rating at the start of the academic year “performed significantly worse in the GCSE exams” than those where the good news about a school’s improved Ofsted rating was revealed much later in the academic year.

    In other words, positive school labelling, in the shape of a good Ofsted rating, seemed to have a negative effect on the exam performance of GCSE students. The earlier in the academic year the news was received, the lower the students’ performance.

    The researcher’s accounted for this unexpected change in academic performance by arguing that “Parents typically reduce help at home when perceived school quality increases. Parents receiving good news are around 20 percentage points more likely to reduce help with homework, for example”. (If you want to take this finding further, of course, you can relate it to ideas about the levels of cultural capital parents are able to employ in pursuit of achieving educational success for their offspring).

    Overall, the “negative effect of positive labelling” in this context meant that “parents who receive good rather than bad news about the quality of their child’s school are 24 percentage points more likely to reduce the help they give their children with homework and 14 percentage points less likely to increase it”. This, in turn, suggested “reduced help by parents lowered children’s exam performance”, even in a situation where “their children’s own time investment in schoolwork increased in response to the same information”.

    In a further interesting finding the researchers’ note that “While parents’ reaction to good news is pronounced, their reaction to bad news about school quality is much more muted. Parents that receive bad news do not respond by significantly increasing their help at home”.

    This is a further finding you might want to usefully explore with your students in terms of different types of capital and their effects in terms of educational achievement.

    * Greaves, E; Hussain, I; Rabe, B and Rasuly, I: “Parental Responses to Information About School Quality: Evidence from Linked Survey and Administrative Data”: Institute for Social and Economic Research (2019)

    Sociology in Focus for AS: Education and Methods

    Saturday, March 9th, 2019
    Overview Map

    Continuing to plough the long and lonely furrow that is AS Sociology, today’s offering is a whole bunch of resources for Education with Research Methods. These complement the Sociology in Focus for AS textbook you can pick-up for absolutely nothing if you click the link and then click another link to download it. You might want to read the text that surrounds the download link, but it’s not mandatory.

    If you follow the AQA Spec. the combination of Education and Methods will be all-too-familiar but if you follow other Specs (such as Eduqas) you’ll be pleased to know that as far as the resources go they’re basically “all about the Education” and you can forget about Methods (at least in this context).

    If you teach / study OCR then you need to be aware these are AS rather than A2 resources.

    If you teach / study outside the UK bubble you may find stuff here and in the textbook that relates to your course of study, but I can’t guarantee it.

    (more…)

    Free Textbook: Sociology in Focus for AS

    Friday, February 8th, 2019
    Sociology in Focus: Families and Households

    For those of you with long(ish) memories, the original Sociology in Focus textbook first appeared in the mid-1990’s and I remember being quite taken by its novel(ish) attempt to reinvent “The Textbook” as something more than just a lot of pages with a lot of text.

    Although it did, with hindsight, actually have “a lot of text” (they were much simpler times) it also had colour pages (if you include pale blue, black and white as “colour”), pictures (even though they were black and white, they still counted), activities and questions.

    A lot of questions.

    None of which had answers.

    You had to buy a separate resource if you wanted answers (something I casually mention in an apparently throwaway fashion that at some point in the future you will look back on and think “Ah! Foreshadowing”).

    Anyway.

    Around 2004 Sociology in Focus was reinvented as a fully-fledged “Modern Text” with colour-coded sections, colour pictures and less text.  A lot less text.

    Although it was basically the same format laid-down by the original (activities, questions…) with a more student-friendly “down with the kids” vibe, it was now split into two books, one for AS-level and one for A2.

    Which brings me to 2009 and the emergence of a “2nd edition” (that was really a 3rd edition, but who’s counting?), suitably reorganised to take account of yet another Specification change that no-one asked for but which everyone got anyway.

    I’m guessing you’ll not be that surprised to know the format was pretty much the same (and by “pretty much” I mean “exactly”) because it clearly worked, although by this stage I got the distinct impression that most of the production effort was being put into what the text looked like and rather less effort was being placed on the task of updating it.

    While the new edition did reflect further changes to the AQA Sociology Specification – Mass Media, for example, was moved to A2 – there is actually little or no difference between the “AS Media” text of the 2nd edition and the “A2 Media” text of the 3rd edition…

    If you decide to use this textbook with your students – and it does actually have a lot going for it in terms of design and presentation – you need to be aware that the level of information in some sections (looking at you, Mass Media) may be slightly lacking in terms of depth of coverage. In addition, given yet more changes to the A-level Specification, some of the areas covered in the text are no-longer present in the latest Specification and one or two newer inclusions are obviously not covered.

    Having said that, I do think this is a worthwhile text to have available for your students and, given that it’s out-of-print, one of the few ways they’re ever going to be able to read it.

    (more…)

    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.

    (more…)

    School Climate: Narrowing the Gender Gap?

    Saturday, November 10th, 2018

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

    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, perhaps, 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.

    (more…)

    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.

    (more…)

    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.

    (more…)

    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. Postmodernism (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…)

    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.

    (more…)

    Sociology Sim: An Exercise in Inequality

    Friday, March 9th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Beat The Bourgeoisie: A Simulation

    Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (more…)

    More GCSE Sociology Revision Stuff

    Sunday, March 4th, 2018

    While it’s possible to put-together a very reasonable – and reasonably comprehensive – set of revision resources from stuff that teachers have put on the web, there are a couple of things you should do before committing yourself to using these materials:

    1. Check they are for your Specification – you don’t want to be revising the wrong Spec.

    2. Check the Specification year / series to which they refer, particularly if it’s changed recently (over the past year or so). In other words, check the resources cover the newer required material and exclude older, newly-irrelevant material, from your revision.

    Guides

    These comprehensive resources combine things like notes, activities and advice and generally cover a number of different areas of the GCSE Specification. Three I’ve found are worth a look:

    1. Whole Course Revision 2018: This is a serious, 100-page, GCSE Revision Guide, put together by Ian Goddard, that covers:

    • Introducing Sociology
    • Research Methods
    • Family
    • Education
    • Crime and Deviance
    • Social Inequality
    • Power and Politics

    Unlike a lot of the previous GCSE resources I’ve posted [link] this is primarily a revision schedule rather than a simple list of revision notes (although these are also included). In this respect the Guide covers:

    • How to revise
    • Revision schedule
    • Personal Learning Checklist [link]
    • Basic study notes to supplement other reading (the Guide refers to “Collins Revision GCSE Sociology” but if you don’t use this text substituting your usual textbook will be fine)
    • Keywords
    • How to answer questions
    • Past question practice

    2. Sociology Revision Guide: Although not as ambitious or comprehensive as the above – the focus is on key terms and Notes covering Methods, Family and Education, plus a short section in exam advice – this Guide by Debbie McGowan is nicely designed and makes a welcome addition to your revision armoury. Presupposing you have one. If not, you can start one with this.

    3. Revision Guide for Students: A nicely-designed and cleanly laid-out hyperlinked pdf by Jonathan Tridgell that covers:

    • Research Methods
    • Socialisation, Culture and Identity
    • Family
    • Education
    • Mass Media

    While the focus is on brief revision notes the Guide also includes information on:

    • Course structure
    • Exam technique
    • Revision Tips.

    (more…)

    Learning Mats

    Sunday, February 25th, 2018

    Learning mats – originally laminated sheets containing simple questions, learning prompts and drawing spaces – have been around for some time at the lower (particularly primary) levels of our education system, but with the increasing interest in Knowledge Organisers, which in many respects they resemble, they’re starting to gain some traction at both GCSE and A-level.

    Having said that, I’ve only managed to find a couple of examples of their use in A-level Sociology and none at all in Psychology. This may reflect a lack of knowledge about Learning Mats, a lack of interest in their application to A-level study or, more-likely perhaps, a lack of time to create them.

    (more…)

    Knowledge Organisers: Media and Methods and Education

    Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

    Back by popular demand and with a brand-spanking new set of Tables covering media, methods and education. Each Unit is by a different author and the quality is, at times, variable.

    Media

    These are pdf files so unless you’ve got a programme that will edit them you’re stuck with the information they have to offer. That said, they’re fairly recent (2015) and so are probably reasonably up-to-date and in line with the latest Specifications. There is, unfortunately, no indication of authorship…

    Ownership of the mass media
    New media, globalisation and popular culture
    Selection and presentation of news and moral panics
    Mass media and audiences
    Representations of the body
    Representations of ethnicity age and class

    Methods

    These are a little older (2009) and again authorship is a little hazy. On the plus side they’re in Word format so they can be easily edited if necessary.

    Experiments and Questionnaires
    Interviews
    Observation and Secondary Sources

    Previous Tables you might find useful:

    Table 1.

    Table 2.

    Table 3.

    Education

    Again, not sure who created these or indeed when they were created. However, they are in Word format if you want to edit them.

    Functionalism and Marxism
    Feminism, New Right, Interactionism
    Cultural and Material Factors

    Previous Tables you might find useful:

    Table 1.

    Table 2.

    More Sociology Knowledge Organisers

    Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

    Knowledge Organisers, you may or may not be surprised to learn, are the classroom requirement de nos jours and while some (looking at you Michaela Community School) may like to casually lay claim to the concept / format as being something radically new and different they’ve developed, it really isn’t.

    Here, for example, is one I made earlier (about 20-odd years earlier…) and if past experience is anything to go by I probably stole the idea from someone else (or, as I like to think, my efforts were influenced by those of others).

    Be that as it may, if you’ve landed here looking for Knowledge Organisers, here’s another batch I’ve managed to find using my finely-tuned Sociological Sensibility (or “typing stuff into Google to see what I can find” as it’s more-commonly known. Probably).

    These KO’s are slightly different to the various Learning Tables (LT) we’ve previously posted, but they are, to-all-intents-and-purposes, the same in terms of what they exist to do.

    You will find, if you compare the two (otherwise you’ll never actually know), this batch is a little less ambitious in scope and design than the previous LT’s, so it may be a case of choosing which suits you and your students and sticking with those. Or not as the case may be.

    Although the original files I found were in pdf format, I’ve converted them to Word so that you can more-easily edit them if you want to. The only difference between the two files is that rounded bullets in the pdf file have been converted as square bullets in the Word file.

    (more…)