Methods in Context Essay Template

A suggested template for the Methods in Context Question on one of the AQA’s 7191 (1)education and methods in context sample exam papers – the template should work for most Method in Context questions, but it won’t work for all of them (it’ll fit less well for secondary data MIC questions)

Question: 06 Read Item B below and answer the question that follows

Item B

Investigating pupils with behavioural difficulties

Some pupils experience behavioural difficulties and problems interacting with others. This can create a major obstacle to learning, for both themselves and their classmates. In some cases, they are taught in specialist schools or in pupil referral units separate from mainstream education. Often, their behavioural difficulties result from problems outside school and many pupils come from materially deprived and chaotic home backgrounds.

Some sociologists may study pupils with behavioural difficulties using covert participant observation. This method enables the researcher to witness directly the pupils’ behaviour and its context. It may also allow the researcher to build a relationship of trust with pupils and parents. However, the researcher may find it difficult to fit in and he or she may need to adopt a specialised role such as teacher or support worker.

Evaluate the strengths and limitations of using covert participant observation to investigate pupils with behavioural difficulties (20)

Suggested Essay Plan

Cover Four things – Sampling/ Representativeness, Access, Validity, Ethics – In relation to the specific topic you are will be researching….

Discuss getting a sample/ Representativeness How might you gain a representative sample of the group you are studying? Are there any reasons why it might be difficult to get a representative sample?

Will the research method in the question make achieving a representative sample easier or more difficult?

What could you do to ensure representativeness?




Discuss gaining access to respondents Once you’ve decided on your sample, why might gaining access to respondents be a problem? (think of who you will be researching, and where you will be researching)




Will the choice of method make gaining access easier or more difficult?





What would you have to do to make sure you can gain access to this particular group?





Discuss validity/ empathy/ trust/ Insight Think of who you will be researching – are there any specific reasons why they may not wish to disclose information, or be unable to be disclose information?




Will the research method in the question make gaining trust easier or more difficult?




What could you do to make sure you get valid data from the people you will be researching?




Discuss Ethics Think of the specific topic you are researching in relation to who you will be researching – are there any specific ethical problems with researching these people?



Given these ethical problems, is the research method appropriate?



How can you make sure research is ethical?



Conclusion Based on all of the above is this a practical, theoretically sound and ethical method for this topic


NB – For the Topic you could discuss any of the following:

Who you might be researching

  • Pupils
  • Teachers
  • Parents
  • Support Staff

Where you might be researching pupils with behavioural difficulties

  • Classrooms
  • Staffrooms
  • Parents’ homes

 Specific characteristics of the subjects under investigation

  • Vulnerability
  • Stigmatisation
  • Parental consent

For the Method – You should consider all of TPEN: See here for the factors you should consider

Also relevant:

Participant Observation

Using Participant Observation to Research Education


Family Diversity – Sub Topics, Key Concepts and Short Answer Questions

An overview of topic 3: the family household and diversity topic within AS Sociology (my own version of how I break up this massive topic!)

Since the 1960s, post-modern society has been characterised by an increasing amount of family diversity, and this topic looks at how families and households have become more diverse, why they have become more diverse, and perspectives on increasing family diversity.

For this part of the course you need to be able to explain the reasons for the increase in the family and household types listed above and be able to analyse the social significance of these changes from different sociological perspectives. You also need to be able to examine and assess the extent to which families, households and relationships vary according to social class, ethnicity and sexuality.

Sub Topics

3.1 – The underlying causes of the long term increase In Reconstituted families, Single parent families, Multi-generational households, Single person households and ‘Kidult’ households.

3.2 Perspectives on the social significance of the increase of all of the above.

3.3 – The extent to which family life varies by ethnicity, social class and sexuality.

3.4 Evaluating the extent to which the nuclear family is in decline.

Key concepts you should be able to apply

  • Reconstituted Families
  • Individualisation
  • The cereal-packet family
  • Blended Family
  • Beanpole Family
  • Multi-generational Household
  • Forced Marriage
  • Polygamy
  • The Rappaport’s five types of diversity
  • there are many other concepts you can apply from the perspectives topic

Possible exam style short answer questions

  • Using one example explain one challenge reconstituted families might face which traditional nuclear families might not (4)
  • Outline three reasons for the increase single parent households (6)
  • Using one example explain one stereotype that is often associated with single parent households (4)
  • Outline three reasons why single parent households are twice as likely to be in poverty compared to nuclear family households (6)
  • Outline three reasons for the increase in single person households (6)
  • Outline three reasons for increase in multi-generational households (6)
  • Using one example explain one way in which family life may vary by ethnicity (4)
  • Outline and briefly explain two ways in which family life might vary by social class background (10)
  • Using one example explain why some Sociologists claim that the decline of the nuclear family has been exaggerated (4)

The Feminist Perspective on Education (UK Focus)

The Feminist perspective on Education

Liberal Feminists celebrate the progress made so far in improving girls’ achievement. They essentially believe that the ‘Future is now Female’ and now that girls are outperforming boys in education, it is only a matter of time until more women move into politics and higher paid, managerial roles at work.

Radical Feminists, however, argue that Patriarchy still works through school to reinforce traditional gender norms and to disadvantage girls – Add in details to the notes below.

  1. Some Radical Feminist Sociologists see concern over boys’ relative underachievement as a ‘moral panic’. Boys have still been improving their achievement in the last thirty years, just not as fast as girls. The Feminist argument is that the focus on education at the moment on ‘raising boys achievement’ reflects a male dominated system panicking at the fact that old patriarchal power relations are starting to break down.

  1. Despite improvements in girl’s education – subject choices still remain heavily gendered, and girls do not seem to be ‘breaking the glass ceiling’.

  1. Feminists would also draw on the above research which suggests that traditional gender norms are reinforced in schools, to the disadvantage of girls.

  1. Recent research suggests that despite girls doing well at school – girls are increasingly subject to sexist bullying, something which is becoming worse with the ‘normalisation of pornography’. Read the extract from Kat Banyard over page for more details and consider how common such incidents are today. Read the extract provided for details

Extract from Kat Banyard’s “The Equality Illusion”

Chapter 2 – Hands up for A gendered Education

While girls are discouraged from using their bodies on the sports field, they often find their bodies at the centre of another unwelcome kind of activity. Chloe was one of the many women and girls I heard from during the course of my research into violence at school. ‘I had boys groping my en masse. It wasn’t just at break times – in class as well. Sometimes they used to hold me down and take it turns, it was universally accepted. Teachers pretended they didn’t notice. I would regularly hang out in the toilets at break time. I felt pretty violated; it made me hate my body.’ Having now left school, Chloe can pinpoint exactly when the sexual harassment began. ‘When my breasts grew. I went from an A to an E cup when I was fourteen.’ It became a regular feature of her school day, mostly happening when the boys were in groups. ‘People would randomly scream ‘’slut’’. One boy told me that he has a fantasy that he wanted to tie me up and viciously rape me. He was a bit of an outcast. But when he said that all the boys were high-fiving him. He got serious street-cred for saying it.’’ Classrooms are training grounds for boys aspiring to be ‘real men’ and girls like Jena and Chloe are paying the price. Humiliating and degrading girls serves to highlight just how masculine boys really are. And so, sexist bullying and sexual harassment are an integral part of daily school life for many girls.

Hayley described to me how some of the boys at her secondary school were using new technologies to harass girls. ‘They try and take pictures with their camera phones up you skirt while you’re sitting at your desk. Nobody knows what to say. They wouldn’t want to provoke an argument.’ Boys also access internet pornography on school computers. Hayley said, ‘in year seven and eight it’s quite common. Even the boys you wouldn’t expect you see getting told off by teachers for it.’ Similarly Sarah remembers pornography being commonplace at her school; ‘Every student was asked to bring in newspaper articles. Many boys saw this as a great opportunity to bring in newspapers such as the Sun, Star, Sport etc and make a point of looking at, sharing and showing the countless page-three-style images. Sarah was ‘extremely upset on a number of occasions when boys who sat near me in class would push these pages in front of me and make comments. Most of the time all the forms of harassment went completely unchallenged; I don’t think (the teachers) ever paid any attention to sexual harassment.’

The consequences for girls who are sexually harassed or assaulted at school can be devastating. Depression and loss of self-esteem are common. If girls experience repeated sexual harassment they are significantly more likely to attempt suicide. In fact the trauma symptoms reported by adolescent girls subject to sexual harassment have been found to be similar to those descried by rape victims. Yet despite the fact that sexual harassment is shown to have a more damaging impact on victims than other forms of school bullying, teachers are less likely to intervene in incidences of the former. Why? The sexual harassment of girls is viewed as ‘normal’ behaviour for the boys. And it is precisely this naturalising of the act, this insidious complacency it elicits, which has enabled sexist bullying and harassment to flourish in classrooms across the world.

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