An Introductory Session for A-Level Sociology

A brief outline of how I introduce A-level sociology to students unfamiliar with the subject…

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A-level sociology is a new subject for most students as the vast majority have not studied it as a GCSE option. This means that most colleges and schools offering the subject will need to run some kind of ‘information session’ covering what A-level sociology is all about.

Below is an outline of the 25-30 minute ‘information session’ which I’ve used to introduce sociology to students for the last several years.

NB despite the fact that there’s a little ‘warm up quiz’ at the beginning, this isn’t a ‘teaching session’, or a ‘taster session’, these come before and after, this is more of a ‘here’s the information about the subject to get it clear in your head whether you’re choosing the right course for you’ session. 

  1. Intro Quiz

The questions have been selected to cover some of the topics we teach, I simply hand out a sheet with a few ‘pop questions’ – and it gets students talking to each other, and allows time for late-comers (if your ‘intro day’ is anything like my college’s quite a few students’ previous sessions overrun, or they get lost en route, so there’s lateness.

Sociology quiz.png

A section of the ‘pop questions’ I use…

  1. What is the current population of the United Kingdom?
  2. What percentages of marriages end in divorce in the UK?
  3. What percentage of children achieved 5 GCSEs grades A-C last year?
  4. Is the crime rate in Britain going up or down?
  5. In 1993 there were roughly 45 000 people in jail, what is the prison population today?

There’s actually eight questions in total, see the Word doc below for the full, and modifiable version!

2. Answers to intro quiz – on ppt

I Q and A through the answers, sometimes doing the old ‘hands up if you think crime is going down’ technique – which works great for that particular question when you get to congratulate the one or two people who got the ‘right answer’.

intro sociology quiz answers.png

This can actually take up to 15 minutes, as there’s plenty of scope to use Q and A to tease out most of the main themes in the A level sociology specification…. E.G. how do we actually know how many people are in the UK, where does the data come from? (At which point you get to smugly say ‘OK and where does Google get the information from’)

3. Lightening speed run through of the options we do 

A-level sociology content.png

NB – I’ve actually got further slides covering some of the main questions under most of the above headings, except methods, I’m supposed to be selling the subject at this stage!

4. Lip service mention of the skills required for A-level sociology

Skills for A-level sociology.png

NB – I could add on a slide about ‘careers’, but frankly, I was never worried about this when I chose my degree let alone my A-levels (although in my state grammar school as a non-science students I was pretty much limited to English Literature, Economics and History), and so I say give the kids a break!

And that, my friends is that!

Resources (gift to teachers, modify as you wish!)

 

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A few thoughts on revising research methods in context/ applied research methods

The ‘applied methods*’ question appears in paper 1 of the AQA’s Education with Theory and Methods exam (paper 7192/1). This is out of 20 marks, and students are expected to apply their understanding of any of the six main research method covered in the A-level sociology specification to any conceivable topic within education.

An example of an ‘applied methods*’ question is as follows:

‘Applying material from item B and elsewhere, evaluate the strengths and limitation of using participant observation to investigate truancy from school’ (20)

Here’s how I revise these questions with my students… NB I don’t introduce the item until later…

Warm up with the method

Firstly, I get students to talk through the theoretical practical and ethical strengths and limitations just of the method. I do this because students need to know they method anyway, and they can get 10/20 just for writing a decent methods essay (without applying it) – see the mark scheme here.

Methods in Context

Warm up with the method generally applied to the topic

Students brainstorm the general ethical, practical and theoretical issues you may encounter when researching this topic with this method… I think it’s good to be as open-minded as possible early on… It’s easiest just to get them to do this on paper. 

Sociology applied methods

Do a plan applying the method to the specific details in the item

I use an A3 sheet for this, with the item and question in the middle, students now read the item. 

Methods in Context

Write a detailed flow-chart

Here I get students to add in analysis and evaluation points to each original lead-point, showing a chain of reasoning (side 2 of A3 sheet).

Applied Research Methods

Repeat stage two with a different topic, to emphasise the difference in answers for the same method applied to a different topic

DO NOT go over the whole process again, once is enough!

Research Methods

Issues with Revising Applied Research Methods 

There’s a very real possibility that students will just not ‘get it’, because they have to be so nit-pickingly overt about relating the method to the specific topic. Drilling this into students is a painful and thankless task, induced solely by the demands of this specific form of the assessment.

There is also the possibility that students may lose the will to live, especially when some past papers have examples that even I find intolerably dull, and I’m actually interested in this stuff!

*These are sometimes referred to as ‘Methods in Context’ questions. This was the term originally used by the AQA for many years, but (much like this question format itself as a means of assessing application skills) it’s pretty clumsy, so the new ‘applied methods’ phrase is IMO much better.  

On teaching to a question – but what question to ask?

For teachers, ‘teaching to a question’ is often the most efficient way of organizing a lesson, and it’s something I found especially useful when I first began my teaching career, 146 years ago.

In this post all I’m doing is re-visiting this basic strategy in preparation for teaching the next block of theories of crime and deviance, and simply asking myself what are the best ‘starting point’ questions to get students thinking along the line of Marxists, Interactionists and Realists….

Any of these questions can be used as useful starters… as kind of ‘what do you already know’ starter if you like. You could always add in a brief data response task to each block of questions to bring them to life a bit more.

Marxist theories of crime – four basic questions

  • Does Capitalism cause crime?
  • Do the police disproportionately target the working classes?
  • Are elites more likely to escape prosecution by the courts than the working classes?
  • Do Corporations cause more harm to people, society and the planet than ‘actual’ criminals?

Interactionist theories of crime – four basic questions 

  • Do teachers/ the police label students/ people based on their class, gender and ethnicity?
  • Does this create a self-fulfilling prophecy?
  • Are teachers/ the police to blame for the deviance of their students/ the crimes of criminals?

Right Realist theories of crime – to tap into rational choice theory…..

  • Really simple..brainstorm anything the government might do to reduce crime in society (prize for the most solutions)
  • Any series of questions relating to ‘Rational Choice Theory’ (future post on this) – e.g. here’s a scenario, such as it being late at night, no guards, no ticket barrier, would you bunk the train…
  • All things being equal, do you think harsher punishments generally reduce crime?
  • All things being equal do you think more police on the streets is an effective way to reduce crime?

NB – the questions above aren’t supposed to be exhaustive, just the simpler ones to kick start the topics.

Sociology Teaching Resources for Sale

You might be interested in my latest (November 2019) teaching resource pack which contains everything teachers need to deliver 10 hour long ‘introduction to sociology’ lessons.

sociology teaching resourcesIncluded in the bundle is a clearly structured 50 page gapped student work-pack, six PowerPoints* to structure the 10 lessons, 10 detailed lesson plans outlining a range of learning activities you can use with students, a massive list of relevant contemporary resources with links, and numerous lesson activities including introductions, plenaries and links to some Socrative quizzes.

These resources contain all the core sociology knowledge students need for a through introduction sociology, illustrated with numerous up to date contemporary case studies and statistics.

The resources have been designed for A-level sociology and cover the core themes on the AQA’s specification but are suitable for new 16-19 students studying any specification.

You might also like these teaching resources for the sociology of education. They are specifically designed for A-level sociology students and consist of several versions of key concepts definitions (80 concepts in total), gapped summary grids with answers covering the entire sociology of education specification and 7 analysis activities.

If you want to get both of the above resources and receive regular updates of teaching resources then you can subscribe for £9.99 a month. I’ll be producing 10 hour long lessons worth of resources every month throughout 2020 and beyond. The £9.99 subscription means you get the resources for 50% off the usual £19.99 price.

 

‘Station’ based lessons for A level sociology

Station based lessons are those in which the teacher sets up a number of different (and differentiated) tasks on different tables in the class room and students spend a set time at each table, moving from task to task.

I find these are most useful at the very beginning of the Winter and Easter terms, after students have done sufficient sociology to enable them to work through said tasks largely on their own, with the teacher acting only as a facilitator…

This is precisely what I’ll be doing with my Upper sixth groups when I face the horror and terror of going back to school on Thursday…. Station lessons make things a little easier…

Here’s one to try out, based on recapping consensus theories of crime and deviance, links to the resources are below.

Overview plan:

  • students spend about 30-40 minutes working through the 5 stations, 5-7 minutes on each of five separate stations.
  • students spend about 20-30 minutes ‘writing up’ the answers in the attached booklets.

Resources 

  • Consensus Theories of Crime Recap Lessons.
  • White board for task
  • A3 photocopies of pages 2-4 above for stations 2, 3, and 5.
  • Card sorts for task 4 (I don’t have these to hand, but you simply need cards with concepts, and pictures and perspectives – this is more of a general recap rather than a consensus theory of crime recap),

Station 1: White Board Station (AO1 – Knowledge)

  •  Explain your one of the consensus theories of crime in picture form – you may use three words also.

Station 2: AO1 Concepts Station (A01 – Knowledge)

  • Research and write in the definitions for two-three of the concepts
  • If you finish, add in an example or piece of supporting evidence which illustrates the concept

Station 3: Data Response Station (AO2 – Application)

  • Read the item, then for one theory write in how that theory would explain the case study in the item. 

Station 4: Card Game Station (AO3 – Analysis)

  • Game 1: Shuffle the concepts and theories cards – pick two (or three!) at random, suggest a link between them.
  • Game 2: Rank the ‘case studies cards’ – rank them in order of how well they support your assigned theory. 

Station 5: Evaluation Station (AO3 – Evaluation)

  • Add in as many evaluation points as possible for one theory
  • If you finish, then add in counter-evaluation to the previous evaluations of theories

Further comments

There’s not a lot else to say really… this was just a New Year’s post for all the sociology teachers out there, happy new year!

Socrative for Teaching and Learning A-Level Sociology

Socrative is a real-time feedback learning-tool which allows teachers to quickly produce multiple choice, true/ false or open ended questions in order to assess student understanding.

Personally I think Socrative is the most useful online learning tool available to teachers and students studying A-level subjects, much more useful than Quizlet, for example, although it still has its limitations.

How to use Socrative

NB – You might like to just go sign up and try it out, unless you’re a total luddite (in which case go sit down with your tech-bod at school) you’ll find Socrative so easy to use…..

Teachers sign up for a ‘teacher account’ and can creating quizzes in advance of the lesson, or use the quick quiz option to ask one question at a time in class. Teachers will also need to create an online ‘room’ where students can join to take part in the quiz – you’ll need to call the room something simple live ‘Dave’s Sociology Room’. (Actually ideally something shorter than that – Maybe DSOC1, for example).

Once the teacher has started a quiz, students can access the quiz room by any browser, via the Socrative homepage or by the Socrative app if installed on phones/ tablets, and by entering the teacher’s ‘Room Name’ (which will be up on the screen once the quiz is live).

The teacher has the option to make progression through questions either 1 then all pause, or self-paced, and you can put in right or wrong answers, and add in explanation for why a particular answer is correct.

I’m not sure what the upper limit of entrants is, but Socrative has handled more than 20 in my class easily. The beauty of Socrative is that once students have completed all the questions, you get an overview of what questions they got right or wrong – here’s an example from a recent ‘education policies‘ recap I did at the beginning of one lesson the week after we’d taught social policies (in fairness to my teaching, questions 4 and 8 were designed to be tough! Also note that for question 9 I hadn’t set a ‘correct answer’ so it hasn’t colour coded).

socrative.jpg
clearly questions 4 and 8 need reviewing

 

And you can dig deeper into responses for each question too, simply by clicking on the question links above…. please note that in order to get a correct answer, students had to identify all three of the polices, and only those three!

Socrative questions

Incidentally, another great use for Socrative in sociology is simply to type in the same questions used in ‘opinion surveys’ to get an immediate feel for how students’s values correspond to that of the nation… here’s a sample of today’s students showing that they’re anti-immigration, but probably not quite as intolerant as their grandparents….

immigration survey

In the background of Socrative

Once you’ve signed up as a teacher, you get presented with the options below.. I won’t explain how it’s done, it’s so easy to use!

socrative review

Uses of Socrative for teaching A level sociology:

  • As with Quizlet, it’s great for recapping basic knowledge… however, an advantage over quizlet is that it allows you to enter much more challenging multiple choice questions, with answers close together to make students think.
  • You can tap into analysis and evaluation skills, simply by alternating multi choice knowledge questions with open ended questions asking students to simply justify their answers.
  • You can use the open ended question function to get students to write Point Explain Elaborate Evaluate essays collaboratively, live online.
  • With the quick question function, you can get students to select the best answer!
  • You get immediate feedback about what students need to review.
  • Socrative stores the reports for you, even with the free version.
  • You can collect a lot of data about formative learning here, especially if you can figure out a way of combining it with previous attendance, effort etc…

The Limitations:

  • For the free version, it only works when it’s live, you have to actually run it! The quizzes aren’t there all the time for constant review as they are with Quizlet.
  • Whose got time to actually use the data collected?

P.S. If you want to use the above education policies quiz – here’s the code…

SOC-31071794

Sociology Teaching Resources for Sale

You might be interested in my latest (November 2019) teaching resource pack which contains everything teachers need to deliver 10 hour long ‘introduction to sociology’ lessons.

sociology teaching resourcesIncluded in the bundle is a clearly structured 50 page gapped student work-pack, six PowerPoints* to structure the 10 lessons, 10 detailed lesson plans outlining a range of learning activities you can use with students, a massive list of relevant contemporary resources with links, and numerous lesson activities including introductions, plenaries and links to some Socrative quizzes.

These resources contain all the core sociology knowledge students need for a through introduction sociology, illustrated with numerous up to date contemporary case studies and statistics.

The resources have been designed for A-level sociology and cover the core themes on the AQA’s specification but are suitable for new 16-19 students studying any specification.

You might also like these teaching resources for the sociology of education. They are specifically designed for A-level sociology students and consist of several versions of key concepts definitions (80 concepts in total), gapped summary grids with answers covering the entire sociology of education specification and 7 analysis activities.

If you want to get both of the above resources and receive regular updates of teaching resources then you can subscribe for £9.99 a month. I’ll be producing 10 hour long lessons worth of resources every month throughout 2020 and beyond. The £9.99 subscription means you get the resources for 50% off the usual £19.99 price.

 

Using Quizlet for Teaching A-level Sociology

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…

Sociology quiz

 

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.

teaching sociology online
Quizlet’s range of test options

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…

  • basic definitions of key sociological concepts – such as this ‘research methods, the basics‘ quizlet
  • the key ideas of the sociological perspectives – Functionalism, Marxism etc – for example this ‘Functionalist perspective on education‘ quizlet
  • 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.

Sociology Teaching Resources for Sale

You might be interested in my latest (November 2019) teaching resource pack which contains everything teachers need to deliver 10 hour long ‘introduction to sociology’ lessons.

sociology teaching resourcesIncluded in the bundle is a clearly structured 50 page gapped student work-pack, six PowerPoints* to structure the 10 lessons, 10 detailed lesson plans outlining a range of learning activities you can use with students, a massive list of relevant contemporary resources with links, and numerous lesson activities including introductions, plenaries and links to some Socrative quizzes.

These resources contain all the core sociology knowledge students need for a through introduction sociology, illustrated with numerous up to date contemporary case studies and statistics.

The resources have been designed for A-level sociology and cover the core themes on the AQA’s specification but are suitable for new 16-19 students studying any specification.

You might also like these teaching resources for the sociology of education. They are specifically designed for A-level sociology students and consist of several versions of key concepts definitions (80 concepts in total), gapped summary grids with answers covering the entire sociology of education specification and 7 analysis activities.

If you want to get both of the above resources and receive regular updates of teaching resources then you can subscribe for £9.99 a month. I’ll be producing 10 hour long lessons worth of resources every month throughout 2020 and beyond. The £9.99 subscription means you get the resources for 50% off the usual £19.99 price.

Problems with the increasing involvement of technology companies in education

There are four main problems of the increasing role of large technology companies in education, all of which stem from the incompatibility of the values of Silicon Valley Digital Capitalism and Public Education:

  1. The algorithmic approach to education cannot take into account the social and moral complexities of real world education.
  2. The idea of ‘learning through failure’ is incompatible with supporting every child to develop
  3. The focus on individualized entrepreneurialism may be incompatible with ideals of social cohesion, justice and equality of opportunity.
  4. The influence of technology companies in public education undermines the democratic process.

Technology companies education.png

Challenging the Benefits of Commercial Education

Large technology companies and their enthusiasts have made grand claims about both the problems of traditional public education and the potential benefits of disrupting business as usual through digital innovations such as MOOCs.

However, many of the technological disruptions of the last decade have simply failed to deliver positive results – in short, they have promised much but delivered far less.

The tech companies may well blame public education officials for failing to embrace their technologies (and/ or ideologies), however Neil Selwyn argues that tit is more a case of technology companies failing to ‘get’ public education, and the enormous complexities which surround the realities of educating people.

Below I summarize four ways in which the culture of technology firms are incompatible with the culture of public education, as identified by Selwyn (2016)

The problem of viewing education as a ‘computational project’

Innovations such as Coursera, Thiel Fellowships etc. tend to see education as a discrete computational project, that is a set of variables which can be manipulated and programmed so as to avoid any bugs or inefficiencies.

The problem with this ‘reductive approach’ is that education rarely contains variables that can be adjusted or manipulated to achieve optimal cause and effect – in reality, the social complexities of the real-world contexts in which learning takes place cannot easily be included in algorithmic models designed to make learning ‘more efficient’.

Similarly, it is questionable whether a computer can be programmed effectively to answer moral questions about the content of what a student, or students should be learning more generally.

The problem of ‘learning through failure’ 

In the Silicon Valley world of hi-tech start-ups, it is expected that the vast majority will fail, but the handful that survive will go on to be game-changers.

However, this ‘fail fast, fail often’ approach does not necessarily translate well into education, as the start-ups will be gambling with the futures of individual students, schools, or even districts… As Bill Gates reflected on his Foundations forays into education reform… ‘it would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we probably won’t know for a decade’.

This approach clearly does not fit in well with the ‘supporting every learner to succeed’ model advanced by the social democratic ideals of education.

The Problem of Focusing Too much on Individualised Learning 

Silicon Valley idealism is also rooted in a libertarian belief in the values of personal freedoms and the individualization of action, with a skepticism towards ‘experts’ working within traditional institutions (such as education) which are generally seen as inefficient.

Innovations such as the MOOC or Flipped classrooms are examples of educational transformations which have emerged out of this individualist philosophy. Such disruptive technologies can, at one level, be seen as tackling inefficiency in the provision of existing educational provision.

However, such disruptions might undermine a number of the traditional social democratic values inherent in public education, such as those of promoting community cohesion, communal responsibility and the public good, rather than just emphasizing individual gain.

Such innovations may also undermine the ideal of equality of opportunity. Some research suggests that MOOCs for example are primarily accessed by people from privileged backgrounds, who already have degrees (source forthcoming).

Big technology companies might undermine the democratic process

When the executives of companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft have something to say about education, education ministers tend to listen. This has led some commentators such as Joel Spring to suggest that such companies operate as ‘shadow education ministries’ – the problem here is that large tech companies are playing a role in shaping our education systems, they profit from it, and yet they have no accountability!

Conclusion

It’s unlikely that technology companies are going to stop trying to disrupt education, and it’s unlikely that our increasingly neoliberal public managers are going to stop them. However, it’s also unlikely that the public are just going to give up on the ideals of social democratic education that easily, and so at some point stakeholders in education are going to have to figure out a way of reconciling the approaches to education advanced by Silicon Valley digital technology firms and those which persist in our public education systems.

Source 

Nick Selwn (2016) Is Technology Good for Education?

Asking Questions about Theories and Concepts in Sociology

My weekly ‘Monday teaching and learning’ post: I’ve been thinking about questioning in A-level Sociology recently,* in particular I’ve been asking myself ‘what are the best quick-fire questions to ask students about theories and concepts’ and ‘what’s the best way to present these questions’?

By ‘best’ I mean what kinds of questioning style will most effectively develop knowledge recall, understanding and the skills of application, analysis and evaluation? And how can this be done quickly!

I’m only really interested here in questioning as a review activity (not the kinds of question you ask during a regular lesson), so this is meant for recapping previous lessons work, as part of a plenary, or as part of a revision lesson.

As I see it, the most effective way to ask questions is to do so in a hierarchical order, starting with basic recall, and moving up through application, analysis, and evaluation, and you could even tag on a conclusion type question at the end.

I tend to ask eight questions to recap any theory or concept… In the example below,  I used these questions on a PPT with the headings as titles and the prompts in the main body of each slide. This was a simple, verbal pair-work recap task (with the usual further development questions tagged on). There’s also nothing from stopping you dumping these questions onto Socrative.

Why poor countries poor

I also use prompts to speed things up, and you could of course make these prompts as cards and for each slide get students to do ranking/ sorting exercises.

Eight Questions About Dependency Theory

(which could be asked about any other theory or concept)

  1. (AO1) Explain why poor countries are poor according to Dependency Theory

HINT: Use the following concepts…

  • Marxism
  • Colonialism
  • Neocolonialism
  • Exploitation
  • Core-Satellite
  • Communism
  1. (A01) Give some examples which best illustrates Dependency Theory
  • Try to think of one ‘developed’ and one ‘less developed’ nation
  1. (AO2) Apply Dependency Theory to something else…
  • Use Dependency Theory to evaluate Modernisation Theory
  • What do you think the function of education in poor countries might be according to Dependency Theory?
  1. (A03) Analyse Dependency Theory: How does the theory/ concept relate to the following concepts below:
  • Marxist theory more generally
  • Inequality
  • Power
  • Capitalism
  1. (A03) Analyse Dependency Theory
  • Who developed it (where did it come from)?
  • If you could convince everyone it’s true, then whose interests does it serve?
  1. (AO3) Evaluate Dependency Theory using evidence
  • Identify as many pieces of supporting evidence as you can
  • Identify as many pieces of counter-evidence as you can…
  1. (A03) Evaluate using other theories
  • HINT: What would Modernization Theory say about this theory?
  1. (AO2) Interim Conclusion – How useful is Dependency Theory?
  • HINT: Where ’10’ is explains everything and 0 is explains nothing, what score would you give Dependency Theory out of 10 in explaining why rich countries and rich and poor countries poor?

Asking these eight questions in relation to other theories and concepts…

Other topics I’ve used this template with recently include (with different prompts) The Functionalist View of Education, The Correspondence Principle (focusing in more deeply on just one Marxist concept of education), The Neoliberal Theory of Economic Development and the concept of Gross National Income as an indicator of development (the kind of concepts this 8 question hierarchy works well for might actually surprise you).

Of course this won’t work for everything and will need tweeking, but to my mind, this is a nice general questioning structure that ticks my 20-80 rule – spend 20 mins prepping to get 80 mins of students doing – NOT the inverse!

 

*I’m fairly sure this is a big contributor to mental illness among teachers, it’s exhausting.

Basic Question Types in A-Level Sociology (AQA focus)

There are three main types of ‘question’ in A-level sociology exams:

  • Outline and explain questions
  • Analyse questions
  • Evaluate questions

This (hopefully) raises the question (is that a pun?) about what you’re likely to be asked to outline and explain/ analyse or evaluate….

If you read to the AQA’s specification carefully, which I’ve done (I couldn’t sleep the other night, it did the trick nicely), then you’ll find that there are 7 ‘core themes’ in A level sociology that examiners are likely to wrap these three basic question types around.

 

Seven basic types of outline (and explain) questions 

Outline simply means give a reason and explain how….

  1. Outline and explain three ways in which a concept ‘manifests itself in society.
  2. Outline and explain the effects of various social policies/ social changes
  3. Outline and explain the reasons for social class/ ethnic and gender differences in society
  4. Outline and explain the reasons for various social changes
  5. Outline and explain all of the five perspectives on education/ families
  6. Outline and explain a positivist/ interpretetivst approach to social research
  7. Outline and explain the strengths and limitations of any research method

Seven basic types of analyse question

Analyse means picking something apart into its component parts…. basically it involves outlining and explaining and then ‘digging deeper’ to explain even further…

  1. Analyse how a concept relates to other concepts/ perspectives
  2. Analyse the reasons for social changes
  3. Analyse the impact of social policies/ social changes
  4. Analyse the reasons for social class/ ethnic and gender differences in society
  5. Analyse the functions which institutions perform in society, using any of the perspectives
  6. Analyse how globalisation has affected social life.
  7. Analyse any social problem quantitatively or qualitatively…

Seven basic types of evaluate question

Evaluate means to demonstrate the strengths and limitations of something….you typically do this by considering a claim from another perspective, or by using evidence to support or refute it. 

  1. Evaluate the usefuleness/ relevance of a concept in explaining social phenomena today.
  2. Evaluate how significant a certain factor is in explaining changes in society
  3. Evaluate the view that a particular social policy/ social change has had a negative or positive impact on society.
  4. Evaluate the view that a particular reason is the most significant reason for class/ gender or ethnic differences in society.
  5. Evaluate the usefulness of any perspective for helping us to understand the role of institutions in society.
  6. Evaluate the view that globalisation has had a positive/ negative effect on any aspect of social life.
  7. Evaluate the usefulness of quantitative/ qualitative approaches to social research (possibly applied to a particular topic)

Thoughts on using these question types to teach A-level sociology

It’s relatively easy to differentiate teaching according to whether you’re asking students to ‘outline’ (easy) or analyse/ evaluate (more difficult), but I also think teachers need to be VERY AWARE of the which of the seven types of question they are getting students to think about, as each has a different kind of ‘flavour’ which influences the way it should be approached. 

NB – the question types above are not meant as an exhaustive account of all the possible question types students might be asked about in the exam, but if you focus on getting students to think about these questions you’re covering most of the bases.

Two other types of basic sociology question…

There are other ‘action words’ for sociology questions, such as define and apply, which students also need to be able to answer, but I really wanted to keep the above focused on the three main types of exam style question…

Define questions

Define any sociological concepts (and give example to illustrate)

Apply questions 

  1. Apply a perspective in order to explain any social phenomena/ media event/ social trend.
  2. Apply a research method to a particular topic.

Ranking Exercises in Sociology

‘Ranking is an academic exercise; through the exchange of opinion thinking is exercised and personal understanding is achieved of key issues and concepts. This results in deep rather than shallow learning.’ (1)

Ranking research methods, concepts, or even simple value-statements against some pre-set criteria is (IMO) one of the most efficient and useful* ways of developing students’ evaluation skills.

As with just about everything in life – all of this is explained much better through the use of examples, below are a few of my favourite ranking exercises:

At some point, hopefully very soon I’ll get around to putting the actual resources I use online somewhere so you can download them!

EXAMPLE ONE: Rank the RESEARCH METHOD according to the criteria…

Research Methods Sociology Ranking.png

  • Obviously provide students with the above cards so they can sort them!
  • Additional instruction/ criteria slides might include ‘validity’, ‘representativeness’ etc.

EXAMPLE TWO: Rank the RESEARCH TOPIC according to the Methods criteria

Very useful for Methods in Context this!

(Display on PPT): Rank the following topics according to how easy YOU would find it to gain access to conduct research.

Cards you could use (each bullet point on a separate card)

  • Researching how the values, attitudes, and aspirations of parents contribute to the achievement of certain groups of children
  • Why boys are more likely to be excluded than girls
  • Why white working class boys underachieve
  • Exploring whether teachers have ‘ideal pupils’ – whether they label certain groups of pupils favourably
  • Looking at whether the curriculum is ethnocentric (racist/ homophobic
  • Exploring the extent to which sexist ‘bullying’ disadvantages children
  • Examining how ‘gender identities’ enhance or hinder children’s ability to learn
  • Assessing the relative importance of cultural deprivation versus material deprivation in explaining underachievement

Example 3: Rank the ’causes’ of the social change

(Display on PPT): Rank the following reasons according to how significant they are in explaining the long term decline in the birth rate.

Cards you could use (with this topic I might actually include a bit more detail on the backs)

  • Economic changes
  • Changes in the position of children
  • Changing gender roles
  • Postmodernisation
  • Technological changes

Example 4: Rank the Example to how far it applies to men and women AND how liberating/ oppressive it is

I’m claiming this ‘double whammy’ ranking exercise – never seen it before. NB If you ‘spatialise’ this by making students hold one card each and go to different places in the room, you can even add in a third axis by getting them to hold the cards high or low.

(Display on PPT): Along the horizontal axis rank the cards according to whether it applies exclusively to men or women, or equally to both; along the vertical axis rank according to whether the experience is oppressive or liberating:

Feminism Diagram

Suggestions for cards (I use about 20 for this)

  • Becoming a police officer
  • Becoming a nurse
  • Becoming a soldier
  • Going to jail
  • Becoming a politician
  • Becoming a CEO
  • Being the primary child carer
  • Motherhood
  • Fatherhood
  • Being a victim of sexual harassment

Hints and tips for using ranking activities effectively

  1. Use them – they are very efficient – all you need is a set of cards with the words on that need ranking and a power point slide with the criteria and instructions **.
  2. I recommend having no more than 8 cards (it gets tiresome with more than 8), and you probably don’t want to do more than ‘4 rounds’ of matching with the same cards, students tend to get a bit sick of it after that.
  3. Technically I’m sure you can match and rank nearly anything against anything, so mess around with it, you might even get some lateral thinking going!
  4. Do I really need to remind you to make yer cards real perty and laminate ’em???

Sources and Further Notes

(1) Ginnis (2002) Teachers Toolkit

*There are maybe more useful ways, but for the busy teacher in mainstream state education, ranking exercises are extremely quick to produce.

**You could do this on paper, and just get students to write in the order (say 1-10), or I’m sure there are online versions too, but personally I like cards – they’re nice and tactile!