The issue of why differences in life chances by class, gender and ethnic differences exist forms a major part of any A level sociology syllabus, and I would say the analysis of the reasons behind these social differences is fundamental to sociology’s very self-identity.
Within A level sociology, students need to be able to a very general ‘macro’ analysis the ‘general reasons’ behind differences in life-chances by class gender and ethnicity, and they need to be able to focus in and analyse more specifically the reasons why there are specific variations. For example, across the A level syllabus you might reasonably ask students to do any of the following:
- Analyse the reasons for gender differences in the division of labour (families and households)
- Analyse the reasons for differences in educational achievement by social class(education)
- Analyse two reasons for differences in conviction rates between ethnic minorities (crime and deviance, AND this was an actual question in the AQA’s 2017 paper 3.
The point of this post is to provide a general framework to help students analyse why there are variations in class, gender and ethnicity in so many areas of social life.
A framework for analysing in A level sociology
To analyse the any social difference by class, gender or ethnicity I’d recommend simply looking at the following:
- (Functionalism) Socialisation (@home) differences – material versus cultural
- (Marxism/ Feminism) Society – Power/ Ideology/ Blocked Opportunities/ Patriarchy/ Capitalism/ Racism
- (Labelling Theory) Micro processes, especially labelling.
- (Postmodernism) – Individual Freedom….
The picture below shows the prompts I use to get students to analyse the reasons for gender differences in child care….
The above is a ‘BIG VERSION’ so it shows up here, I actually provide my students with the following blank A3 grid (prompts are the same as on the big version)
And I Include the following instructions either on the back of the A3 ‘grid’ or on a PPT…
Developing Analysis Skills in Sociology—Instructions
- Write in/ place the cards/ discuss the concepts and research evidence you could include in each bubble.
- Try to be logical— demonstrate how each ’broken down’ concept forms a ’causal chain’ to answer the question.
- You COULD add in evaluation outside each bubble.
- If you like ‘subvert the bubbles’ by analysing differently (see below)
Alternative ways of doing it!
- Analysing this question from four broad perspectives is only one way of doing it—you could adopt a purely Marxist/ Feminist analysis and analyse using Marxist. Liberal, Radical and Difference Feminism.
- You could also analyse this by using different institutions… focus on the family, education, work and the media.
- And you could even analyse by research methods—simply macro versus micro….
The idea is that students can develop analysis within each bubble, but also across each bubble, the bubbles on the left and right (as you go down the template) should be especially easy to link together.
Essentially, students need to be able to analyse the reasons for any difference (within education/ families/ crime/ religion/ work, depending on options chose) by any of class/gender/ ethnicity (or two or three of these). This means there are a lot of possible combinations – in other words, there is a limitless amount of fun to be had with developing analysis skills.
Analysis questions in the A level sociology exams
All three of the A level sociology exam papers will have one 10 mark ‘analyse two reasons why’ questions. For example:
- Analyse two reasons for gender differences in the division of labour (families and households)
- Analyse two reasons for differences in educational achievement by ethnicity (education and research methods
These questions will have an item which will fundamentally limit what reasons students can choose. I’d recommend a different template for specific exam preparation.
More of that later, personally I think it’s better to encourage ‘open analysis’ early on, as this also helps with the ‘outline and explain’ questions as well as any of the essay questions.
Ironically (not surprising for the AQA) the above template is probably better preparation for the 10 mark ‘outline and explain questions’, because good explanation also requires analysis!
As far as I see it, the above structure works for any combination of class/ gender/ ethnicity for any topic within A level sociology, although it doesn’t apply as well to Global Development.
Of course you might disagree, if so, do lemme know, and keep analysing!