I’m just in the process of re-examining the AQA’s ‘specification’/ vaguefication* for the sociology of education section to get a better idea of what kind of 10 mark ‘analyse’ questions might come up.
In case you don’t know (and you wouldn’t know this unless you’ve been on a course run by the AQA) a 10 mark ‘analyse’ question will take any aspect from any two of the bullet points in the AQA’s specification and ask you to make the links between them (with reference to a small item)….
Now… IF you’re already aware of this, then you probably know that there’s four main topic areas listed under the education specification/ vagueficiation, hence it’s quite easy to think up some nice combination questions taken from across these four bullet points.
HOWEVER, this might not be the limit of 10 mark question combinations – because under the education section of the A-level specification/ vagueification there is also specific reference to the ‘6 core themes’ of socialisation, power etc… so this might open up the possible of an even greater array of 10 markers.
A few possible 10 mark analyse questions:
Using material from Item A (remember there will be an item!) analyse two ways in which the functions of education have changed due to globalization.
Using material from Item A, analyse two ways in which selection policies might have influenced the process of teacher labeling.
Using material from Item A, analyse two ways in which the privatization of education has affected the way in which different ethnic groups experience school.
Using material from Item A and elsewhere , analyse two criticisms of the view that the hidden curriculum in schools helps to reproduce economic inequalities in wider society.
Using material from Item A and elsewhere, analyse two ways in which education policies might help overcome some of the disadvantages boys face as a result of gendered socialization practices.
I know some of these are just horrible, but remember, that the AQA has a burning hatred of all teenagers, and at least the above questions make sense, unlike some which have come up previously!
A reminder of the AQA’s specification for the education section of A-level paper one:
The study of the topics in this paper should engage students in theoretical debate while encouraging an active involvement with the research process.
The study should foster a critical awareness of contemporary social processes and change, and draw together the knowledge, understanding and skills learnt in different aspects of the course.
In their study of the topics, students should examine:
topic areas in relation to the two core themes (socialisation, culture and identity; and social differentiation, power and stratification)
both the evidence of and the sociological explanations for the content listed in the topic areas below.
Throughout, students should be encouraged to use examples drawn from their own experience of small-scale research.
Attention should be given to drawing out links with other topics studied in this specification
Students are expected to be familiar with sociological explanations of the following content:
the role and functions of the education system, including its relationship to the economy and to class structure
differential educational achievement of social groups by social class, gender and ethnicity in contemporary society
relationships and processes within schools, with particular reference to teacher/pupil relationships, pupil identities and subcultures, the hidden curriculum, and the organisation of teaching and learning
the significance of educational policies, including policies of selection, marketisation and privatisation, and policies to achieve greater equality of opportunity or outcome, for an understanding of the structure, role, impact and experience of and access to education; the impact of globalisation on educational policy.
*I prefer the term vagueification because this ‘specification’ doesn’t actually give us a precise idea about what might come up in the exam – nowhere in the above specification does it explicitly state you need to know (for example) about ‘Chinese’ students or ‘compensatory education’, yet these have both come up in previous exam papers. Thus this specification gives you a vague idea of what might come up, not a specific idea. To get a more specific idea, you need to spend a few years teaching or examining A level sociology, read the four main text books and and intuit the advice circulating about the content of A-level.
According to a report released today, social mobility is generally highest around London and lowest in rural areas…
How Social Mobility Varies by Local Authority in England in 2017
NB – There’s a nice ‘interactive’ infographic at the link above!
London and its environs (mostly Surrey) have the highest levels of social mobility, while rural areas generally have lower levels of mobility.
Interestingly it isn’t just deprivation and wealth which predict social mobility… some wealthy areas like West Berkshire and Crawley perform badly for social mobility – in these areas, it is very difficult for children born into poor backgrounds to climb the income ladder.
Conversely, some of the most deprived areas are “hotspots”, providing good education, employment opportunities and housing for their most disadvantaged residents.
These include London boroughs with big deprived populations such as Tower Hamlets and Hackney.
The main reason for variations in social mobility highlighted by the report is the lack of available jobs, especially well-paying jobs, which is a real problem in some of the more rural areas.
It might be interesting to… (and I might play around with this later)
Compare this data to deprivation indices and see how far wealth holds back social mobility.
Compare this data to population density… Just a hunch, but surely all other things being equal, the denser the population the more (realistic) job opportunities?
Compare this data to educational achievement and school type… to see if schools really do make a difference at the regional level.
Take a sample of the lowest social mobility areas and the highest (they’d need to be similar) and just find out as much as possible about both areas to try and explain these differences….
Quizlet is basically an online flashcard and quiz generator – you simply set up a discrete ‘study set’, for example, ‘the Functionalist Perspective on Education’ and create a range of flashcards with brief definitions of key concepts or an overview of the key ideas of theorists, or even ‘stock evaluations’.
In the background of Quizlet… it’s so easy to use…
Quizlet saves your Flashcards and creates a number of different test formats – the three most useful of which are ‘learn’, ‘match’ and ‘test’, at least IMO for reviewing basic knowledge of A-level sociology.
It’s extremely useful for reviewing AO1 (knowledge) and ‘stock’ AO3 – evaluations – basically any kind of knowledge that you might usually review using a sentence sort or matching type activity – content such as…
reinforcing categories of knowledge for some A-level sociology content -e.g. what’s an in-school factor, what’s an out-of school factor, what’s a pull factor, and what’s a push factor…. you might (you might not!) like this ‘rinse and repeat Functionalism/ Marxism‘ test I put together.
key facts and stats (assuming the answers are very discrete – basic stats on education, crime and the family for example.
The strengths and limitations of research method.
key names – the basics of who said what, who researched what.
basic ‘stock evaluations’ one perspective makes of another.
What Quizlet is useful for (for A-level sociology)
There are lots of concepts which students need to know, a combination of flashcards, testing and matching games are quite useful for keeping this ticking over.
It’s also useful for getting students to spell certain words correctly, some of the testing formats demand this!
It gives feedback on what students keep getting wrong.
NB – Unlike Socrative and Kahoot, Quizlet tests are always around, always ‘on’ if you like, students have access to the information at all times, the other two are only playable ‘live’.
There is an excellent ‘live’ version of Quizlet which randomly allocates students to teams – I won’t explain how this works here, but it’s quite a nice way to break up a lesson!
If you sign up for the pro-version, you can create classes and monitor students work – although I imagine professionals already have enough data to deal with!
You can also nab other people’s Quizlets… copy them and edit them so they fit you’re own particular whimsy…
What are the limitations of Quizlet?
I cannot see how you can use it to develop analytical skills. I suppose you could with the use of careful and cunning questioning, but I can’t see the point, you may as well just do this aspect of teaching face to face.
Also, the same goes for deep evaluation skills, you can’t really tap into this.
Basically, you can’t develop ‘chains of reasoning’ on Quizlet, or do anything developmental and discursive.
In conclusion – how to use Quizlet effectively for teaching A level sociology?
Recognize its limitations – good for basic knowledge reviewing, memorizing in a rinse and repeat style, useful for breaking up lessons occasionally, but you can’t develop effective analytical or deep evaluative skills with it!
NB – You also have to make sure that one side of the flash card is short, ideally just one word, rather than complex and long-winded questions. That way most of the test functions work much more effectively.
Quantitative research is a strategy which involves the collection of numerical data, a deductive view of the relationship between theory and research, a preference for a natural science approach (and for positivism in particular), and an objectivist conception of social reality.
It is important to note that quantitative research thus means more than the quantification of aspects of social life, it also has a distinctive epistemological and ontological position which distinguishes it from more qualitative research.
An ideal-typical outline of the stages of quantitative research:
The fact that quantitative research starts off with theory signifies the broadly deductive approach to the relationship between theory and research in this tradition. The sociological theory most closely associated with this approach is Functionalism, which is a development of the positivist origins of sociology.
It is common outlines of the main steps of quantitative research to suggest that a hypothesis is deduced from the theory and is tested.
However, a great deal of quantitative research does not entail the specification of a hypothesis, and instead theory acts loosely as a set of concerns in relation to which social researcher collects data. The specification of hypotheses to be tested is particularly likely to be found in experimental research but is often found as well in survey research, which is usually based on cross-sectional design.
3. Research design
The next step entails the selection of a research design which has implications for a variety of issues, such as the external validity of findings and researchers’ ability to impute causality to their findings.
4. Operationalising concepts
Operationalising concepts is a process where the researcher devises measure of the concepts which she wishes to investigate. This typically involves breaking down abstract sociological concepts into more specific measures which can be easily understood by respondents. For example, ‘social class’ can be operationalied into ‘occupation’ and ‘strength of religious believe’ can be measured by using a range of questions about ‘ideas about God’ and ‘attendance at religious services’.
5. selection of a research site or sites
With laboratory experiments, the site will already be established, in field experiments, this will involve the selection of a field-site or sites, such as a school or factory, while with survey research, site-selection may be more varied. Practical and ethical factors will be a limiting factor in choice of research sites.
6. Selection of respondents
Step six involves ‘choosing a sample of participants’ to take part in the study – which can involve any number of sampling techniques, depending on the hypothesis, and practical and ethical factors. If the hypothesis requires comparison between two different groups (men and women for example), then the sample should reflect this.
Step six may well precede step five – if you just wish to research ‘the extent of teacher labelling in schools in London’, then you’re pretty much limited to finding schools in London as your research site(s).
7. Data collection
Step seven, is what most people probably think of as ‘doing research’. In experimental research this is likely to involve pre-testing respondents, manipulating the independent variable for the experimental group and then post-testing respondents. In cross-sectional research using surveys, this will involve interviewing the sample members by structured-interview or using a pre-coded questionnaire. For observational research this will involve watching the setting and behaviour of people and then assigning categories to each element of behaviour.
8. Processing data
This means transforming information which has been collected into ‘data’. With some information this is a straightforward process – for example, variables such as ‘age’, or ‘income’ are already numeric.
Other information might need to be ‘coded’ – or transformed into numbers so that it can be analysed. Codes act as tags that are placed on data about people which allow the information to be processed by a computer.
9. Data analysis
In step nine, analysing data, the researcher uses a number of statistical techniques to look for significant correlations between variables, to see if one variable has a significant effect on another variable.
The simplest type of technique is to organise the relationship between variables into graphs, pie charts and bar charts, which give an immediate ‘intuitive’ visual impression of whether there is a significant relationship, and such tools are also vital for presenting the results of one’s quantitative data analysis to others.
In order for quantitative research to be taken seriously, analysis needs to use a number of accepted statistical techniques, such as the Chi-squared test, to test whether there is a relationship between variables. This is precisely the bit that many sociology students will hate, but has become much more common place in the age of big data!
10. Findings and conclusions
On the basis of the analysis of the data, the researcher must interpret the results of the analysis. It is at this stage that the findings will emerge: if there is a hypothesis, is it supported? What are the implications of the findings for the theoretical ideas that formed the background of the research?
11. Writing up Findings
Finally, in stage 11, the research must be written up. The research will be writing for either an academic audience, or a client, but either way, a write-up must convince the audience that the research process has been robust, that data is as valid, reliable and representative as it needs to be for the research purposes, and that the findings are important in the context of already existing research.
Once the findings have been published, they become part of the stock of knowledge (or ‘theory’ in the loose sense of the word) in their domain. Thus, there is a feedback loop from step eleven back up to step one.
The presence of an element of both deductivism (step two) and inductivism is indicative of the positivist foundations of quantitative research.
The August 1947 partition of India divided the newly independent country into two new states: A Hindu-majority India and a Muslim-majority Pakistan. The later was itself divided into western and eastern sections, more than 1000 miles apart: present day Pakistan and Bangladesh.
In the view of most historians, the partition of India was the central event in 20th century South Asian history. It precipitated one of the largest migrations in human history, as Muslims fled to Pakistan, and Hindus and Sikhs to India. Up to 15 million people were uprooted, and this was accompanied by a vast outbreak of sectarian violence, as communities that had coexisted peacefully for hundreds of years massacred and killed each other. More than a million people are thought to have been killed.
The partition also marked the departure of the British from the subcontinent after 300 years in India
What led Britain to leave India?
India’s 30 year-long nationalist struggle had made it increasingly difficult and expensive to run, and after World War Two Britain no longer had the resources to control it. Indeed, Britain’s Labour government, elected in 1945, was firmly in favour of the idea of Indian self-rule. In early 1947, prime minister Clement Attlee appointed Louis Mountbatten as viceroy, instructing him: “Keep India united if you can. If not, save something from the wreck. In any case, get Britain out.”
Mountbatten proceeded at a speed that is now generally deemed to have been disastrous, but from a narrow British perspective he was fairly successful, the British marched out of the country with only seven casualties.
Why was partitioning India deemed to be necessary?
As a result of Muslim conquests dating back to the 11th century, a fifth of India’s population was Muslim at the time of partition. And thought Muslims and Hindus had been living side by side peacefully for centuries, the two groups became heavily polarised in the early 20th century. Prominent Muslims, feeling that the Indian National Congress, the main nationalist movement, was largely Hindu, formed the Muslim league in 1906. From the 1920s there were outbreaks of communal violence; and in 1940, the League, fearing the prospect of a Hindu-dominated India, committed itself to a separate Muslim homeland.
Congress initially opposed this idea, and negotiations between Congress leader Jawahatlal Nehru and Mohammed Ali Jinnah of the Muslim League became ever more poisonous. In 1946, a British mission proposed a loose federal structure, with three autonomous groups of provinces, but this was rejected and Mountbatten wen on to convince the major players that partition was the only option.
How was India divided?
A British barrister, Cyril Radcliffe, was given little more than a month of remake the map of India. His two boundary commissions, for Punjab and Bengal, had to draw a line through the two most divided provinces. He sat with four judges on each – two Muslim, two non-Muslim – but they split equally on contentious issues, leaving him the casting vote. The final borders were not agreed until two days after Independence. Few were happy. And very large numbers of people were left on the wrong side of the new line.
Why was partition so violent?
This question has been the subject of decades of historical debate. Indian nationalists generally blame Jinnah’s intransigence: the only India he’d accept would be a ‘divided India, or a destroyed India’, and the Direct Action Day he declared in August 1946 led to rioting and killing in Calcutta. Local politicians also stirred up violent prejudice, while landlords and businessmen paid and trained gangs of militias. ‘Divide and rule’ had ramped up tensions between different communities and the swift withdrawal of the forces of law and order left a dangerous vacuum. From August 1946 on, there were regular massacres across the country, which in turn sparked others, building to a climax in the summer of 1947.
Where was the violence worst?
It was particularly intense in Bengal and worst in Punjab, where there were massacres, forced conversions, mass abductions and rapes.”Gangs of killers set villages aflame, hacking to death men and children and the aged, while carrying off young women to be raped,” writes Nisid Hajari in Midnight’s Furies, his history of the partition of India. “Some British soldiers and journalists who had witnessed the Nazi death camps claimed the partition’s brutalities were worse: pregnant women had their breasts cut off and babies hacked out of their bellies; infants were found roasted on spits.”
The Punjab was effectively ethnically cleansed, of Hindus and Sikhs in the west, and of Muslims in the east. Refugee trains were ambushed and sent on to the border full of the murdered and the maimed. Karachi, Pakistan’s first capital, was nearly half Hindu before partition, by the end of the decade, almost all its Hindus had fled. Some 200 000 Muslims were forced out of Delhi.
Those who suffered the most: the women
During the partition, women were abducted, raped and mutilated in vast numbers. Victims were tattooed with phrases such as ‘Jai Hind’ (victory to India) and ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ (long live Pakistan). Stories abound of men killing their own wives and children in order to spare them the shame of possible capture and rape.
The Indian government has estimated that 83 000 women were abducted in 1947, mostly from the vast columns of refugees known as Kafilas. Some 50 000 were Muslims and the rest Hindus and Sikhs. The larger number of Muslim victims is attributed to the actions of organised Sikh jathas, or armed bands. Rather than being abandoned, writes Yasmin Khan in The Great Partition, “tens of thousands of women were kept in the ‘other’ country, as permanent hostages, captives, or forced wives; they became simply known as ‘the abducted women’.”
In the eight-year period after partition, 30 000 women were eventually repatriated to the other country. More than 20 000 Muslim women were sent to Pakistan, and more than 9 000 Hindus and Sikhs to India. The rest never returned to their families.
What were the long-term effects of Partition of India?
India and Pakistan have existed in a state of permanent hostility as a result – they’ve fought three declared wars, two of them over Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority area to stay inside India. A decades-long insurgency there has left thousands dead. Today, a large Muslim minority of some 170 million people remains in India; a far smaller Hindu minority of around three million lives in Pakistan. Both groups face persecution.
Pakistan, as the smaller and weaker country, has been dominated by its army and intelligence services in large part due to the perceived threat of India. The Pakistan military has used its jihadi proxies to attack India, while India has in recent years elected intolerant Hindu nationalist leaders.
The wounds of 1947 have never healed.
Relevance of this case-study to A-level Sociology
Can be used to illustrate how religion can be a source of conflict.
Can be used to illustrate how conflict ‘retards’ development.
Can be used to illustrate the relevant of feminist theory (probably difference feminism) – women seemed to have suffered more than men due to the partition.
Can be used to illustrate the ‘ethnocentric nature’ the British history curriculum – most students will know nothing about the partition of India.
No More Boys and Girls (BBC, August 2017) BBC programme documents a 6 week experiment in gender neutrality carried out with one year 3 primary school class in primary school on the Isle of White…. Can our kids go gender free?
Doctor Javid Abdelmoneim (*) believes that these attitudes are not just the result of biology, but down to socialisation, and so establishes a gender neutrality experiment, conducted on one class of year 3s, in which he removes all traces of gender differentiation for a 6 week period, finally testing them to see if ‘typical gender differences’in things such as self-confidence and spatial awareness have been reduced (*I recommend you check out the above profile, on Al Jazeera, he seems like an interesting character!)
The rational for doing this research now is that these children have lived their entire lives under the equality act, which was passed in 2010, emphasizing that men and women should be treated the same.
Thankfully, some generous sole has kindly done the BBC’s job for them and provided an effective and just service to license fee payers by uploading the documentary to YouTube, which the BBC itself only made available for a short time on iplayer, a totally unreasonable action given the cost of the licence fee. Here is said video:
The documentary finding, however, suggest that this is far from the case, and there are several differences in terms of attitudes about what boys and girls should do, and how the teachers treat boys and girls.
The programme starts with a few clips of boys’ and girls’ attitudes towards gender, which suggests that they have very set views about what they suited to do in the future, in which various girls and boys say that:
‘If a woman has a baby, the man will have to get a job to look after them.’
‘Men are better at being in charge.’
‘Men are more successful because they could have harder jobs and earn more.’
‘I’d describe girls as pretty, dresses, lipstick and lovehearts’
‘boys are cleverer than girls because they get into president more easily’.
There are also early observations of one class in which the teacher clearly uses gender specific terms for girls and boys – calling the girls ‘love’, and boys ‘mate’, for example.
But why do gender differences between boys and girls exist?
Dr Javid visits a neuro-scientist who helpfully tells us that there appears to be very few structural differences in the brains of boys and girls, and thus gender differences are not biologically determined, but exist because of socialisataion – their experiences have taught them different skills and different mental attitudes.
Research from Stanford University suggests that seven is a key age in the development of gender identity, because it is at this age that boys and girls start to develop fixed ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman, thus Dr Javid’s experiment should be able to change gendered expectations of boys and girls.
Dr Stella Something now comes in from the UCL psychometric lab to subject boys and girls to what seems to be a pretty rigorous series of activities aimed to measure….
Their levels of self-esteem
Their perceived intelligence
Their understanding and levels of empathy
Their levels of assertiveness
How good they are at resisting impulses
How much vocabulary they have to describe their emotions
Levels of classroom behavior, hyperactivity and
The basic findings (which are corroborated by the class teacher) are that:
Girls underestimate their levels of self-esteem, intelligence and assertiveness: three times as many boys overestimated their perceived intelligence, and girls were more likely to underestimate it. 50% of the boys described themselves as ‘the best’, compared to only 10% of girls.
Boys cannot seem to express their emotions – girls were more able than boys to provide ‘similar words’ to describe every emotional cue-word given to them, except for anger.
Girls tendED to describe themselves through words about looks (such as ‘pretty’ and ‘lipstick’)
The Control Group
Another, very similar year 3 class which had a regular 6 weeks of teaching was also tested alongside the experimental group to act as a control.
Dr Javid turns up on day one and tells the pupils about the experiment – he basically tells them he wants to ensure than boys and girls are treated the same, because they can all do as well as each other, and he then gives them a load of signs saying such things as ‘girls are strong’ to challenge gender stereotypes, which they put up around the classroom.
For further details you’ll need to watch the programme…. for now – I’ll update with the rest when I get time!
The school where this experiment took place is Lanesend Primary School, on the Isle of Wight, with 300 boys and girls aged 5 to 11,
The gender gap in education refers to the fact that girls get better GCSE and A level results than boys, in practically every subject, and women are much more likely to go to university than men. For more specific statistics on the relationship between gender and educational achievement, please read on…
Exam results 2017 by gender
2017 GCSE results show a 9.5% gender gap – with 71 per cent of female entries were awarded at least a C – or a 4 grade – compared with just 61.5 per cent of their male counterparts
At A-level, there is a 5.4% point gap in the A*-C achievement rate between girls and boys (in the table below, the middle column is the A-C rate
Girls have opened up their biggest gap over boys in A* to C GCSE grades for 14 years.
71.3 per cent of female entries were awarded at least a C grade, compared with just 62.4 per cent of their male counterparts.
A higher percentage of female entries also achieved A* or A grades: 24.1 per cent compared with 16.8 per cent for boys – a gap of 7.3 percentage points
Interestingly, research from the Cambridge Assessment Research Report showed that the ‘gender gap was generally smaller in STEM and Language subjects (around 5 percentage points at grade C) and greater in Applied, Expressive and Humanities subjects (around 14 percentage points at grade C)’.
GCSE and A level statistics show us subject choices are very gendered – even in 2017, boys tend to choose typically male subjects and girls tend to choose typically female subjects.
Interactionist theory points to teacher stereotyping and labeling as one of the main explanations for these gendered differences in subject choice, but what evidence is there that teachers stereotype pupils along gender lines?
Almost a third (32%) of young people think that more boys choose STEM subjects than girls because they match ‘male’ careers or jobs. The perception that STEM subjects are for boys only is the primary reason that teachers believe few girls take up these subjects at school.
More than half of both parents (52%) and teachers (57%) admit to having themselves made subconscious stereotypes about girls and boys in relation to STEM, and over half (54%) of teachers claim to have seen girls dropping STEM subjects at school due to pressure from parents.
This research was based on a sample of 8,644 people in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, including 2,793 boys and 2,667 girls aged 7-16, 909 young men and 875 young women aged 17-23, and 1000 parents and 400 teachers.
The fact that this research is only based on a sample of 400 teachers, and the fact that the sample is online and random, raises questions about how generalisable these findings are to the wider population of teachers. We simply don’t know!
Looking at the A level exam entries by gender in 2017 over 90% of people who sat computing were male, compared to only 23% of people who sat sociology A level.
Either click on the above graphic or check out the interactive version here (irritatingly I can’t embed dynamic visuals in a wordpress.com blog, yet!)
These are only selected A-levels, to make the amount of information more manageable…. I didn’t deliberately select it so sociology was the most feminine, but it’s certainly ‘up there’ as one of the most female dominated subjects… must be all that empathizing us sociologists do?!
Talking about empathy, or lack of it, I have to say absolutely no thanks whatsoever to the Joint Qualifications Alliance who did not even respond to my email request for a spread sheet of this A-level data.
The JCQ only make this public data available in the form of a PDF which makes it less accessible for data manipulation – I had to enter this info by hand, which was massively inefficient use of my time.
This post is primarily me testing out the capabilities of Tableau (Free data viz software)…. More on subject choice at different levels of education later, as well as analysis of WHY males and females choose different subjects…..