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Posts Tagged ‘research methods’

Methods Mat

Monday, January 14th, 2019
Methods Mat

A generic Methods Mat template that might be useful for both Sociology and Psychology A-level Research methods teaching. 

The Research Methods Tables created by Liam Core got me thinking about how to present a similar level of information in a Learning Mat format (such as Stacey Arkwright’s Sociology Mats, the Psychology Studies Mat or the generic Sociology / Psychology Mat).

What I’ve come up with is Learning Mat template – an A4 page available as either a PowerPoint or Pdf document – focused on a single research method. I’ve included the PowerPoint version for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, if you’re in the habit of displaying stuff for your students it’s much easier to do this in PowerPoint.

Secondly, if you want to edit the template – to create, for example, a worked illustration – it’s a lot less work to do it in PowerPoint.

Although the Mat should be fairly straightforward to use (it includes space to note the Key Features, Strengths and Weaknesses of a Research Method) I’ve added / adapted a couple of sections from the original:

The first is fairly minor: the addition of a way to indicate if it’s a primary or secondary research method).

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Research Methods Tables

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

I’ve previously posted a couple of pieces of Liam Core’s work (a Sociology Literacy Mat and an A-level Evidence Bank Template) and since these have proven very popular with teachers I thought I’d tap him up for a few more resources.

Research Methods Table

And, sure enough, he’s delivered.

This time it’s a handy research methods table students use to record key aspects of a range of methods (from questionnaires to public documents). The (Word) format’s easy to replicate so if you need to add or subtract different methods before you let your students loose it’s relatively easy to do.

In terms of completing the table, for each research method students are required to note its:

  • Key features
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Practical issues
  • Ethical issues
  • How you use the table is, of course, up to you but it’s a resource that could be useful for revision, as a prompt sheet for timed essay writing and so forth.

    The resource packs a lot of research methods onto a single A4 page and some teachers / students might find this a bit restrictive, so if you decide to use this as a paper-based resource the author suggests you enlarge it to A3 before giving it to your students. Alternatively, if you find A3 materials a little unwieldy, a forthcoming post should solve this problem.

    Keep watching the skies.

    Attitudes to Marriage in China

    Tuesday, December 18th, 2018
    Click to download a pdf copy.
    Download the Report

    As you may be aware, from time-to-time I’ve featured a variety of short pieces of research, on a range of topics, carried-out by Richard Driscoll’s students at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China.
    This latest study by Elim Wu (“What are High-School Girls’ Attitudes Towards Marriage in China’s International High Schools?”), a high school sociology student at the school, is well-worth the read for a couple of reasons:

    Firstly, it gives an interesting glimpse inside a non-European society that UK students in particular should find useful as a way of broadening their knowledge and understanding of contemporary societies.

    Secondly, it’s a relatively simple piece of research (in the sense that it doesn’t try to be over-ambitious in what it can realistically achieve with the time and resources available) carried-out by an A-level student.

    The study looks at female attitudes to marriage and the various pressures surrounding the development of such attitudes, with a particular focus on parental and wider cultural attitudes to marriage in contemporary China. The study has three main sections (although some of these are sub-divided):

    1. Background reading about marriage in China that’s used to set the context for the study, in terms of outlining some of the traditional social pressures faced by young women. In addition the material notes some of the contemporary attitudinal changes creeping into a Chinese society undergoing rapid modernisation.

    2. The Methodology section provides information about the research method (semi-structured interviews), sample and pilot study. There’s a helpful discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the method A-level students should find useful. Discussion of the plot study also provides an interesting reflection on the research, in terms of things like how questions evolve in the light of researcher experience. Again, this is useful information that gives students an insight into how “real-life” research changes to meet unexpected problems and conditions.

    3. Final Findings sets-out the qualitative data collected from the interviews. This is worth reading for both the content – the author interviewed a number of perceptive and articulate respondents – and the clarity with which the data is linked to the various research questions.

    While the study clearly has limitations, both in terms of the subject matter and the methodology (only 6 respondents were interviewed, for example) this makes it a useful piece of research on which A-level students can practice skills such as evaluation – to which end the author has included a helpful final section in which they evaluate the work they’ve produced.

    Interactive Ethics

    Friday, October 12th, 2018

    Following-on from the previous post where I suggested how it might be possible to spin-off a discussion of research ethics from a naturalistic observation simulation, my attention was drawn towards this interesting offering from the Open University – an online “interactive challenge” designed to help students understand “why research ethics is really a researcher’s best friend”.

    As you may have noticed, the OU Marketing Department seems pretty gung-ho in they’re advocacy of ethical considerations in social research.

    And rightly so.

    Probably.

    Anyway. In this simple interactive challenge you’re “taken through a case to look at where and when you think the ethics committee might step in and why this would be necessary. Meet a fictional committee and become a member!”.

    In other words, you’re introduced to a range of characters who might conceivably be part of a University Committee and then asked to give your opinion, based on the evidence presented, as to whether the research submission under consideration (“the role of the police and their attitudes towards sex worker ‘zones of tolerance’ i.e. the way sex workers may be allowed to operate in certain controlled areas in some UK cities) is ethical across four main criteria:

    • Valid Consent
    • Do no harm
    • Data Protection
    • Researcher safety

    In basic terms you’re presented with some text about the proposed conduct of the research and then asked to give an opinion about its ethicality (a word I may just have invented) in relation to any of these categories.

    The challenge only takes a few minutes (probably 15 at the most) and it’s a really neat way to introduce students to ethics, ethical issues and the role of an ethics committee.

    It’s also Quite Good Fun.

    Not words usually associated with a lesson on Ethics.

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    Naturalistic Observation Lesson Plan

    Thursday, October 11th, 2018

    I’m a firm believer that when it comes to teaching research methods you can never have too many examples of lesson plans that either simulate the process of “doing research” or, as in the case of Bernard C. Beins (Counting Fidgets: Teaching the Complexity of Naturalistic Observation), turn it into a simple, but effective, lesson activity that:

    • is easy to set-up and run
    • requires very few resources
    • involves very little pre-preparation
    • is unobtrusive and relatively short
    • produces a large amount of data for discussion, analysis and evaluation.

    While the lesson plan is explicitly aimed at psychology students it’s equally useful for sociologists, because the overall objective is simply to provide a context – the classroom activity – that can be used to analyse and evaluate naturalistic observation in terms of its strengths and weaknesses.

    And if you want to introduce your students to these ideas you could always throw a short video into the pre-discussion mix: Naturalistic Observation is available On-Demand to buy or rent as well as being available on our Non-Experimental Research Methods DVD that also includes Self-Report Methods, Correlations and Case Studies.

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    Longitudinal Studies: Animated Explanations

    Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

    Although longitudinal studies, such as Wikstrom’s PADS (“Peterborough Adolescent Development Study”: 2002 – 2010) research – designed to understand how families, schools and communities shape young people’s social development – are a well-established and hugely-valuable source of comparative data, teaching them as part of an a-level Sociology research methods course can be a little, shall we say, dry?

    To make things a little more interesting, therefore, you might want to have a look at this series of five, short (around 1 minute each), animated films designed to provide an easy introduction to the joys of longitudinal research.

    Overview: This Introduction to longitudinal studies is probably a good place to start, both because it’s basically the beginning and it outlines what they are, what they do and how they can be used. In this respect, the animation introduces three basic ideas:

    • different types of longitudinal study (such as cohort studies and household panel studies).
    • how data is collected.
    • how studies can be used (specifically in relation to social policy).

    Subsequent films pick-up and develop these general ideas in terms of:

    design – with a focus on sampling.

    types of longitudinal study.

    data collection tools.

    How longitudinal data is used for research.

    Throw-in a few limitations of longitudinal studies –

    • Time: the PADS study, for example, was carried-out over a 10-year period.

    • Cost and management: Wikstrom’s study involved managing a diverse group of around 30 student investigators and academic collaborators.

    • Attrition rates – over a long period of time people may gradually leave the study.

    • Sample degradation: although you may begin with a representative sample this may degrade over time as and when people leave. This may gradually erode the study’s representativeness.

    – and you’ve got the basis for a complete longitudinal lesson.

    Don’t thank me.

    Someone’s got to do it.

    Update

    ASPIRES 2 is a contemporary example of a longitudinal study designed to “study young people’s science and career aspirations”.

    It’s of interest sociologically because a major objective has been to “understand the changing influences of the family, school, careers education and social identities and inequalities on young people’s science and career aspirations.”

    New Media: WeChat and the Chinese New Year.

    Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

    One of the nice things about running Dorset’s Most Popular Sociology Blog (*) is that from time-to-time we get to feature the work of Richard Driscoll’s students at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China.

    Previous posts have, for example, examined ideas as diverse as Cultural Capital, Parental Involvement in Education, Social Identity and Matriarchy as these relate specifically to Chinese society.

    This particular piece of research, by Adelaide Han, is a qualitative examination of the impact new media, in the form of WeChat,  a hugely-popular Chinese social media messaging app (used by an estimated 900 million people each day), has on traditional forms of behaviour in the shape of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

    As ever, you need to keep in mind the research was carried-out by an A-level student so you should see it as suggestive rather than definitive; it’s useful, nevertheless, for the way it looks at the relationship between new technology, in the shape of social media apps, and highly-structured traditional forms of behaviour.

    Disclaimer

    * While there’s no actual evidence to support this Proud Boast, we’re making it on the entirely-ridiculous basis that since there are no other Dorset-based Sociology Blogs (probably) we are, by default, the “most popular”. QED.

    Introduction to Research Methods

    Monday, June 18th, 2018

    Pages from the University of Portsmouth suitable for a-level sociology students. The resources mainly cover research methods (questionnaires, interviews, observation…) and a little bit of methodology…

    Over the past few months you may, or more-probably may not, have noticed that I’ve posted a range of crime and deviance resources on theories of crime, policing and so forth from the University of Portsmouth.

    Despite the well-documented problems encountered in tracking-down and assembling these resources, I decided to have a look around to see if there were any further resources available on other topics suitable for a-level students. As luck – or what I prefer to call good solid detective work – would have it, there were. On the flipside, however, is the fact they relate to most people’s least favourite module, Research Methods (or as the Unit is self-described, an Introduction to Research Skills).

    As with the majority of the resources across different topics, they’re a bit hit-and-miss when it comes to content and presentation: some pages and modules seem to have had a lot of care and attention lavished on them, while others are just a page or so of plain text. Whether this reflects a deliberate policy or the fact that money and / or enthusiasm for the project ran out I’ve no idea. The resources are, however, generally pitched at a level suitable for a-level students and could be used in a variety of ways (such as flipped learning) to help students get to grips with research methods. (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.

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    Psychology Students YouTube Channel

    Thursday, April 12th, 2018

    I came across this Channel after following a Twitter link to one of its videos (Experimental Design in Psychology – well worth a watch if you’re interested in knowing more about Independent Groups, Repeated Measures or Matched Pairs designs).

    Overall, the Channel offers three types of video:

    1. “To Camera” video lectures, which although quite long at times held my attention through a mix of presenter and on-screen graphics. Since this is (quite literally judging from the setting) a home-made affair the camera angle, lighting and cutting are a little suspect, but I’ve seen a lot worse and they don’t detract from what’s being taught.

    2. Screencasts that consist of a series of static, narrated, text and graphics. These work well and the technical limitations (sound is always a problem with this type of presentation) aren’t too intrusive.

    3. Short, To Camera explanations of different types of variables that have been “SnapChat” filtered in a way that is, quite frankly, scary. As some sort of weird experimental films these might have had some currency; as video lectures I think the best that can be said here is that the medium definitely obscures the message. And then some. I may have nightmares.

    Despite this – and there are only three such films on the Channel to avoid – there’s a lot of useful, well-presented, A-level Psychology information here.

    And it’s all free.

    The Sociological Detectives: Hiding in Plain Sight

    Friday, April 6th, 2018

    In this third outing in the Research Methods series, the Sociological Detectives investigate Overt Participant Observation through a simple piece of hands-on research.

    This PowerPoint Presentation – the 3rd in the Research Methods series (the others being The Research Process and Non-Participant Observation) – combines a hands-on approach to doing Overt Participant Observation with a classroom-based evaluation of the method.

    Students take-on the role of Sociological Detectives which, in this instance, means they are set “a Task” to complete (it’s probably no great secret that this involves doing a simple bit of Overt Participant Observation) outside of class time.

    Students can then use their (brief) experience of using the method to inform the evaluation work they then do inside the classroom.

    While actually doing the Observation is not essential (the Task Options document that outlines some suggestions for how the Observation might be carried-out includes a simple Thought Experiment option for classrooms where, for whatever reason, students can’t physically carry-out this type of observational research) it does, I think, represent a useful teaching and learning device.

    It is, in this respect, a relatively simple – and hopefully interesting – way for students to bring their personal experiences to bear on the more-theoretical aspects of sociological research. (more…)

    The Sociological Detectives: BOLO

    Monday, April 2nd, 2018

    In this research methods simulation students take on the role of Sociological Detectives to investigate formal and informal norms using non-participant observation.

    In the second simulation in the Research Methods series – the first, Trial and Error,  introduced the Research Process – students again take-on the role of Sociological Detectives. This time, however, they are investigating and evaluating a specific research method, Non-Participant Observation and the simulation offers two ways to do this

    1. Field research involves students actually carrying-out a short – typically 30-minute – observational study of their choice (although they are encouraged to check its appropriateness and safety with you). Once you have accepted their choice this is something they should be able to complete outside the classroom, in their own time. The remaining part of the sim – evaluating non-participant observation as a research method – can then be completed in class time when you’re available to provide help and assistance if necessary.

    Alternatively, you can run the sim as a whole-class exercise by looking at the respective strengths and weaknesses of non-participant observation as a class, with individual students able to illustrate key ideas with examples drawn from the observation they’ve done.

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    Knowledge Organiser Updates

    Monday, March 5th, 2018

    For those of you who just can’t get enough of free Knowledge Organisers, Learning Tables or Activity Mats, here’s a quick update on new materials.

    The Hectic Teacher has added 30 new Beliefs in Society “Topic Summary Sheets” to the existing KO’s on Education, Family and Crime. This is for the AQA Specification, but a lot of the information can be applied to OCR, Eduqas or CIE (but this will obviously involve a bit of work on your part…).

    These are all in pdf format but if you contact her and ask nicely they should be available as PowerPoint slides that can be edited to your particular lesson requirements.

    Miss C Sociology on the other hand has been busy producing a new range of Organisers for both

    A-level (Socialisation, culture and identity, Research Methods, Researching inequality, Globalisation and the digital world, Crime and deviance – all aimed at the OCR Specification but, once again, there is a degree of information cross-over with other Specs.) and GCSE (Key Concepts, Families and Households added thus far, with many more promised).

    These are all available as PowerPoint Slides should you want to edit them in any way.

    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.

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