The Sociological Detectives: DEA

In splashthis sim students take the role of “sociological detectives” investigating the reasons for differential educational achievement. Broadly, the sim involves:

  • identifying a range of theories that can be used to explain differential educational achievement across and within categories of class, gender and ethnicity.
  • identifying and collecting evidence that can be used to test (support or refute) the various theories examined.

The accompanying PowerPoint is designed to help you develop this structure and while it’s not essential it can help to both set and explain the scene by introducing the idea of suspects, theory development and evidence gathering at the core of the sim.

In this respect the PowerPoint is simply a shell you can use to give the scenario a bit of substance – to draw students into the idea of playing “Sociological Detectives” and the idea they are investigating a “crime scene” rather than “just taking notes” (or whatever). I’ve included a brief help file that explains the key mechanics of the scenario, if you need it, and you should play around with this Presentation if you plan to use it because it has a few options you need to note (these are explained in the help file).

There are no hard-and-fast rules that need to be followed to run the sim successfully; it’s probably best considered as a scenario – a group of detectives gathered together under your direction to investigate “a crime scene” (in this instance reasons for differential educational achievement) –  because this gives you a great deal of scope to structure the action as and how you see fit. This holds for both:

  • content (what you want the students to learn) and
  • form – how you decide to structure the teaching and learning. In this respect the sim offers a wide-range of different teaching and learning opportunities:
  • Whole-class briefings (short lectures, recaps, work assignment etc.)
  • Small group work
  • Individual work (on areas like paragraph construction, note-taking etc.)
  • Outside class preparation / work
  • One-to-one / small group tuition
  • Audio / Visual briefings (also known as “showing a video”)
  • Group presentations (the work of one group is shared with other groups).

Storing Work

On this latter point you might find it helpful to encourage students to store the work they produce (from finding studies to creating their own notes) on something like Padlet or Google Drive; i.e. somewhere work can be stored and shared easily around the class. Not only does this encourage students to share work, it has the added bonus of creating a store of resources that can be used if the sim is run with other classes (or even shared between teachers in different schools…).

This is an example hosted on Padlet (one advantage of using this type of shared space is its strong visual element)

This is an example hosted on Google Drive: All I’ve done here is put a range of possible materials – book chapters, studies, web notes etc. – into a single folder just to show how something like Google Drive (which is free) can be used to store student and teacher materials. If you were running a real-world sociological detective sim I’d advise creating three folders:

  • A general folder for anything students find on the topic (this might include, for example, book chapters that include both evidence and theories and which would need editing before being placed in the evidence / theories folders).
  • An evidence folder to contain any evidence found (such as a study).
  • A theories folder to hold theoretical explanations, such as those created by students in the form of notes.

Before you run the simulation it’s advisable to think about everything you want to cover relating to Differential Educational Achievement, particularly in terms of theories and evidence (such as research studies) and incorporate these into either the PowerPoint interface (the Presentation can be easily edited if you know a little bit about PowerPoint) that you show to the students or simply introduce these verbally / visually outside the Presentation.  If you’re not comfortable editing the PowerPoint, at the points in the Presentation that relate to “Possible lines of Enquiry” instead of clicking the link to display the things I’ve suggested just suggest theories the students need to cover verbally, display them on a whiteboard, your own PowerPoint or whatever.


I’ve now added an online (html5) version of the simulation so you can run it from just about any device – mobile or immobile(?) – you like. You are now free from the tyranny of PowerPoint. Sort of. Unless you’d rather not be.

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