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Happy Families…

As many of you will already know, Tutor2U produces a shed-load of revision-type resources, from workbooks to flashcards to complete courses. Most of these can be purchased for varying amounts of cash (all major credit cards also accepted) but there’s plenty of stuff you can get for free in exchange for an email address (the links I’ve provided take you to the resource page from where it can be downloaded once you’ve registered / signed-in).

For this post I’ve focused on what they’ve called “Teaching Activities”, a relatively small, but nicely-produced, set of activities focused on a small number of topics (research methods, families, deviance).

Theory Pyramids: In basic terms, a “card matching” activity that involves students assigning key terms / sociologists to various predetermined categories (structure or action, consensus or conflict, Functionalism or Marxism or Feminism etc.). Although it’s possible to do the activity, you need to note:

1. The resource cards refer to both a “Theory Pyramid” and a “Crime Pyramid”, which is a little confusing. It doesn’t make the activity unplayable, but it does indicate something’s gone a bit awry with the T2U quality control department. Similarly, one of the cards references a “polygamous horde” but the suggested categorisation refers to a “promiscuous horde” (Engels’ hopelessly outdated and ahistorical categorisation of some mythical “pre-capitalist” family-type arrangement – really not sure why sociology textbooks persist in teaching Engels in the Family module). Again, a small point but one that’s going to confuse people. And by “people” I mean “everyone”.

2. More-seriously, although the Notes refer to the fact “some key ideas can be placed in more than one category”, concepts like “role”, “nuclear family” and “gender socialisation” can be placed in every category, which kind-of defeats the objective, really. This looks like a bug that’s been turned into a feature.

The Only Way is Ethics: Sporting the kind of pointless pun that’s very dear to my own heart, this activity provides students with a synopsis of a “research situation” and asks them to identify possible ethical issues. The resource provides some suggested ethical issues for each and students are further asked if or how these might be resolved. All good, clean, fun (although some of the scenarios aren’t. Obviously).

Ultimate Research Champion: While this is quite a complicated – not to say convoluted – activity in terms of how it’s organised and put into practice, the basic premise is fairly simple and straightforward: students are given a “research topic” (such as “gender and subject choice”), a range of possible research methods (questionnaires, participant observation, official statistics…) and must decide which they think could be best-used to research the problem.

While the premise may be simple, the execution certainly isn’t. In the first place, the student’s choice of method in relation to the question is automatically marked, via the accompanying PowerPoint Presentation, in terms of concepts like reliability, validity, representativeness and “practicality” (whatever that may actually turn out to mean). While this is all-well-and-good, it does mean that something like “official statistics” are automatically marked highly for “reliability” and poorly for “validity” (as in null-point), which unfortunately isn’t how these things actually work. Particularly in this instance, when official statistics on subject choice are highly valid in terms of actually “measuring what they claim to measure“. They don’t tell us why different genders choose different subjects, but that’s another problem…

Secondly, while the objective seems to be to encourage students to discuss their choice of method in relation to key concepts and their appropriateness to studying different topics it’s not hard to see this rapidly devolving into a “guess the right method” exercise.

Which would be a shame because it’s a decent idea that’s been let-down by poor execution.

A further issue teacher’s might have is with the resource itself. While the integral PowerPoint  Presentation is nicely done it depends on macros being enabled which, I’d hazard a guess, is not something any school / college is going to be happy to allow (it’s just too easy to write macro viruses…).

Happy Families: This activity uses the old card game “Happy Families” (remember Mr Bunn the Baker? No, thought not) to teach different types of family structure. It throws a bonus set of family-related questions into the mix but, when all’s said and done, it’s just a fairly long-winded way to identify different types of family…

Interactionist Approaches to Crime and Deviance: A neat set of revision activities (multiple choice questions, fill-in-the-gaps, bingo…) in one handy PowerPoint Presentation. What’s not to like?

The Usual Suspects: Another simple-but-interesting idea – give students a question and ask them to select 5 from a range of cards displaying crime and deviance concepts / theories that can be used to answer the question. There are a couple of glaring and confusing errors (Phegemonic masculinity? Opportunities subcultures?) but these don’t particularly detract from the activity. There are also blank cards you can use to add any theories you’ve taught that are not included in the provided pack.

Which is thoughtful.

Party On!

Who Am I? Another Crime and Deviance activity that could, if you were really, really, motivated (or desperate) be adapted to other topics (although I’d advise against it). Basically, students need to identity a theorist from a range of up to 10 clues, although quite why you’d want them to do this is anyone’s guess. Still, if you do, you now can.

Don’t Repeat Santa: Nice PowerPoint implementation of the old “guess the word without saying it” game. Mainly based around education but with a bit of crime and deviance and a random set of Christmas-appropriate words thrown-in for good measure. If your school / college allows you to run macros there’s hours of fun for all here. If they don’t, there isn’t because the Presentation won’t work.

Sociology Party!: If you’re the kind of teacher who thinks they should “loosen-up the lesson” a bit come end-of-term (but secretly can’t bring yourself to the point where your students aren’t actually doing any exam-based Sociology), this is the activity for you. The resource lists 5 or 6 different “party activities” you could try, none of which are very demanding (although the “music quiz” that splits students into teams and gives them “5 minutes to come up with 5 songs that provide a clue to a sociological concept, theory or keyword” of your choice is likely to test everyone to the limit – particularly if you restrict them to the songs you know that were popular before they were born…).

As a final treat you’re instructed to give them a “party bag” that involves “An essay question to take home and complete for homework!”. I’m not sure if the exclamation mark is indicative of “Surprise! You thought you were getting something good, but I tricked you” or simply “I actually hate you all”.

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