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How important is it to using the Item in A-level sociology essay questions?

Many teachers I know give their students ‘model essay plans’ for the classic topics in sociology, which students can use and adapt if they get a question on that general topic area.

For example, an essay plan on the question ‘ assess the view that home based factors are more important than in-school factors in explaining class based differences in education achievement’ might have a model plan as below:

  1. Intro
  2. Home based factors – material
  3. Home based factors – cultural deprivation
  4. Home based factors – cultural capital
  5. In-school factors
  6. Conclusions.

(Obviously one could elaborate on this a lot further!)

Students can then change the order if the question is slightly different, such as on in-school factors, in which case in-school factors would be placed at no/2 after the intro and so on….

HOWEVER, I’m not convinced that such an approach will get students into the top mark band. If you check the 30 mark mark scheme carefully, it refers ‘appropriate material being carefully selected and sensitively applied to the question’. To my mind, carefully using the item and using that to structure the question might be a better way to go!

Take the example of the following question take from the 2016 AS sociology specimen paper. The item is clearly pointing you to address only certain aspects of home factors…..

 

 

An item-based structure for the above essay would look like this:

  1. Parenting practices encouraging intellectual development – links to cultural capital theory
  2. More involvement – links to cultural deprivation theory
  3. Evaluative paragraph dealing with material deprivation
  4. Evaluative paragraph dealing with policy
  5. Evaluate using in-school factors, explaining how they are interlinked with school factors!

Make sure you discuss all levels of education!

My thoughts are that this could well be an important strategy when dealing with especially 20 mark essay questions as your time is quite limited on these!

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