Answers to the AQA’s A-level sociology education with theory and methods exam, June 2017… Just a few thoughts to put students out of their misery. (Ideas my own, not endorsed by the AQA – NB – there is a certain level of subjectivity and irrationality within the AQA, and so they may interpret how you answer questions to my (rational) interpretation below… )
Q01 – Outline two cultural factors that may effect ethnic differences in educational achievement (2 marks)
Difficulty – very easy
Simply pick any two cultural factors and explain how….
- language barriers
- parental attitudes towards education (values)
- parental educational levels
- family structure
And then ideally explain how they differentially effect at least two ethnic groups.
Q02 – Outline three ways in which factors within schools may shape gender differences in education (6 marks)
Difficulty – if you’ve just wrote-learnt the ancient Anne Colley etc. stuff then easy, if you didn’t then it’s medium because it’s quite a narrow subject (NB I did anticipate this narrowness!)
Select three in-school factors then explain how…
- subject counsellors/ teachers labels about typical boys and girls subjects
- male and female peer groups – peer pressure
- male dominance ‘physical subjects’
- Gendered subject images/ resources
Then talk it through with ideally three example of different subjects, discussing both boys and girls.
Q03 – Applying material from Item A, analyse two effects of increased parental choice on pupils’ experience of education
Difficulty – it appears hard, because you think ‘WTF’ but if you think about it, and use the item, it’s easy, because you can talk about pretty much anything from across class, gender and/ or ethnicity. So I’m going to call this ‘medium’ level of difficulty, as it’s half way between the two!
NB – There are really only two hooks here – in bold below…
Point one – ‘parental choice has led to a range of school types’ this means a greater diversity of experience….. contrast different experience of school types – succeeding schools/ sink schools, you could contrast and discuss ethos/ hidden curriculum, you could bring in faith schools and ethnicity, you could bring in specialist schools, free schools, no national curriculum, link all this to postmodernism. Criticse by saying there are still general similarities – e.g. testing/ pressure/ narrowing of curriculum.
Point two parents use league tables to choose – schools want to attract pupils this means more emphasis on results, teaching to the test, the school-parent alliance, cream skimming, working class covert exclusion – selection by mortgage.. just be careful to relate all of this to ‘experience of education’.
Q04 Applying material from Item B and your knowledge, evaluate sociological explanations of the role of education in transmitting ideas and values (30)
Difficulty – medium – this is basically a perspectives question, but the item demands that you address Feminism and PM
Intro – acknowledge the item
P1 – Functionalism (recognise it’s old) and evaluate with P/M.
P2 – Marxism – the stuff about ideology (‘ideas’) – evaluate using P/M
P3 – Feminism – evaluate with ‘girls are improving’, NB – the subject choice stuff from Q2 could be lifted in here to support the view in the item. (Actually quite bad exam design here , mr AQA!)
p4 – Postmodernism – fragmentation, diversity – evaluate with maybe NC/ teaching to the test (which also overlaps with Q3)
Conclusion – something like, oh my lord yes those old perspectives are really dated and we need to recognise education is diverse and complex…
Q05 – Using material from item C and your knowledge of research methods, evaluate the strengths and limitations of using field experiments to investigate the effects of teachers’ labelling of pupils
Difficulty – Medium, because it’s a fairly obscure method, but then again it’s applied to a very obvious topic – you can use R and J’s 1968 labelling experiment throughout (and the item!)
An obvious ‘easy in’ is that you have to be in the school in some way to conduct a field experiment. Lots of level 4 marks available right here.
I’d start with the Theoretical, practical and ethical strengths of the method, always applying to the topic, then do the limitations, the hooks in the item are asking you look at truancy and misbehaviour… you could also address performance… I’d pick up on the fact that truancy is easier to measure than misbehaviour…
The last point in the item is about people refusing to participate, which is just begging you discuss covert research to avoid this, then a whole load of practical and ethical problems which come from doing this IN SCHOOLS.
06 – Outline and explain two practical advantages of using documents in sociological research
Difficulty – Hard, because your average teenager just couldn’t care less about it!
The strategy I’d use here is to pick two different practical disadvantages and then discuss why they’re problematic for different types of public and private documents…
Practical factors include..
- Access (the obvious one)
- Time/ money
- Personal skills of the researcher
Access should be easy – why you might find it difficult to access private documents – diaries/ letters, emails, link to ethics of using them, contrast to public documents.
Time/ money – there’s so many of them, such a diversity – it’s a never ending (time consuming) process to analyse (for example) newspapers, media reports in any depth – then I’d link to problems of sampling/ length of time it take to analyse and so on…
Not an easy question to discuss through – For both points I’d also bang on about interpretivism and positivism as much as possible, talking about how practical problems can undermine validity, representativness, reliability, and use as many examples as possible…
Anyway, just a few thoughts, the last question is probably the most difficult on reflection…