Applying material from Item B and your knowledge, evaluate sociological explanations of the role of education in transmitting ideas and values.

How to top mark band in a 30 mark education essay, A-level sociology, AQA.

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Below is an example of a 30 mark essay question which achieved 28/30.

It’s an interesting example of a question which looks like its asking you to evaluate a specific aspect of the Functionalist perspective on education. However, if you look more closely at the item, you’ll need to do this by drawing on Feminism and Postmodernism to evaluate!

The example is taken from the 2017 Education with Theory and Methods Paper (paper and mark schemes available from the AQA 0website) and the specific question is as follows:

The Question with Item 

A-level-sociology-30-mark-question-item

Mark Scheme (Top Band Only)

A-level-sociology-mark-scheme-30-mark-question-top-band.png

Student Response (paraphrased by KT)

Item B states that education plays a role in socialisation. Feminists argue that education reinforces hegemonic masculinity. However, other sociologists such as Functionalists argue that education transmits shared values and post-modernists for example argue that education is diverse and transmits a range of values.

Feminists suggest that education transmits patriarchal ideology. Radical Feminists would say that male teachers/ pupils behave in ways that reinforce hegemonic masculinity. For example, male teachers tell boys off for ‘behaving like girls’ and they also ‘rescue’ female teachers when they are disciplining students. Radical feminists say that this makes females feel inferior to males and therefor means that the role of education is to reinforce the idea that males are the dominant gender. However, a specific evaluation is that the male teachers may rescue female teachers because they are in a more authoritative position. Additionally, post-modernists would disagree with feminists and argue that education is no longer based on inequality, but based on diversity.

Functionalists suggest that education transmits shared values. Durkheim argues that the role of education is to create social solidarity and value consensus. He argues that education achieves this via assemblies, teaching a common history (giving a sense of national identity and bring people together) and teaching core values such as respect which bring social order. Parsons agrees and argues that education is the focal socialising agency and ‘Parsons bridge implies that education takes people from particularistic values of the family/ home to universalistic values of the work place. The New right agree with functionalists that the role of education is to transmit shared values. However, Marxists disagree with functionalists and argue that the socialisation aspect of the role of education is not to create value consensus but that education is uses as an ideological state apparatus, to transmit ruling class ideology.

Marxists suggest that the role of education is to ‘brainwash’ the working class. Althusser argues that education is an ideological state apparatus that transmits ruling class ideology in order to legitimse the inequality caused by the capitalist class. Bowles and Gintis argue that there is a ‘hidden curriculum’ that socialises the working class into obedient workers in order to benefit capitalism. For example, they are taught that being punished for minor issues is acceptable and the importance of punctuality and that they have to obey the people above them in the social hierarchy – e.g. teachers then boss. However, a specific problem of the hidden curriculum is that a study by Willis showed that students can see through the role of education and reject the hidden curriculum.

Bowles and Gintis also argued that there is a correspondence principle where school mirrors work. Similarities such as extrinsic satisfaction (only doing something for rewards, not because you enjoy it eg school to get GCSEs, work to get money) socialise working class pupils to not expect a rewarding job when they leave school and this benefits the capitalist class. As a result, Marxists argue that the role of education is to transmit ruling class ideology and benefit the bourgeoisie. However, functionalists and new right disagree and argue that values are shared to create a value consensus. They argue that marxism is wrong for basing it on conflict when it is really consensus.

Functionasts such as Parsons suggest that education is meritocratic. This means that pupils are taught that they need to work hard if they want to achieve. He argues that the education system is based on this which suggests people only fail if they do not try hard enough. However, Marxists such as Bordieu argue that education promotes middle class values which means working class students fail because their values are not wanted by the school – not because of meritocracy. Ball argued that meritocracy is a myth. However, new right agree and argue that it is down to the individual to work hard and achieve.

Perhaps the main strength of explaining the role of education in transmitting ideas/ values is the functionalist view that education is used to create shared values, because it can be applied to real life education because schools do have assemblies and promote core values. Perhaps the main weakness is the postmodern view because although education is more diverse, each school still has an ETHOS that has been developed by middle class individuals.

Post modernists argue that marxists, feminists and functionalists are out of date. Liberal feminists would argue that the role of education is no longer to reinforce hegemonic masculinity but that inequality/ patriarchy is improving.

Examiner Commentary 

Mark 28/30

Conceptually detailed and located within a broad theoretical framework. Sophisticated analysis and applied clearly to the question. Explicit evaluation throughout.

Did not score maximum as at times evaluation was not fully developed, e.g. postmodernism.

KT’s commentary

An obvious strength of this answer, in addition to the above is it’s clear use of the item!

They also use phrases, such as ‘a specific evaluation’ of this is….

This also shows you that you need good depth of knowledge of the basics of functionalism and Marxism, but you also need to evaluate them with specific comments and P/M to top mark band.

Source:

A-level
SOCIOLOGY
Feedback on the Examinations
Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/1 Education with Theory and Methods
Published: Autumn 2017

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A Level Sociology Essays – How to Write Them

This post offers some advice on how you might plan and write essays in the A level sociology exams. 

The sociology A level exam: general hints for writing essays

  1. Allow yourself enough time – 1.5 minutes per mark = 45 minutes for a 30 mark essay.
  2. Read the Question and the item, what is it asking you to do?
  3. Do a rough plan (5-10 mins) – initially this should be ‘arguments and evidence’ for and ‘against’ the views in the question, and a few thoughts on overall evaluations/ a conclusion. If you are being asked to look at two things, you’ll have to do this twice/ your conclusion should bring the two aspects of the essay together.
  4. Write the essay (35 mins)– aim to make 3-5 points in total (depending on the essay, either 3 deep points, or 5 (or more) shallower points). Try to make one point at least stem from the item, ideally the first point.
  5. Try to stick to the following structure in the picture above!
  6. Overall evaluations – don’t repeat yourself, and don’t overdo this, but it’s useful t tag this in before a conclusion.
  7. Conclusion (allow 2 mins minimum) – an easy way to do this is to refer to the item – do you agree with the view or not, or say which of the points you’ve made is the strongest/ weakest and on balance is the view in the question sensible or not?

 

Skills in the A Level Sociology Exam

The AQA wants you to demonstrate 3 sets of skills in the exam – below are a few suggestions about how you can do this in sociology essays.

AO1: Knowledge and Understanding

You can demonstrate these by:

  • Using sociological concepts
  • Using sociological perspectives
  • Using research studies
  • Showing knowledge of contemporary trends and news events
  • Knowledge can also be synoptic, or be taken from other topics.
  • NB – knowledge has to be relevant to the question to get marks!

AO2: Application 

You can demonstrate application by…

  • Using the item – refer to the item!!!
  • Clearly showing how the material you have selected is relevant to the question, by using the words in the question
  • Making sure knowledge selected is relevant to the question.

AO3: Analysis and Evaluation (NB ‘Assess’ is basically the same as Evaluation)

You can demonstrate analysis by….

  • Considering an argument from a range of perspectives – showing how one perspective might interpret the same evidence in a different way, for example.
  • Developing points – by showing why perspectives argue what they do, for example.
  • Comparing and contrasting ideas to show their differences and similarities
  • You can show how points relate to other points in the essay.

You can demonstrate evaluation by…

  • Discussing the strengths and limitations of a theory/ perspective or research method.
  • You should evaluate each point, but you can also do overall evaluations from other perspectives before your conclusion.
  • NB – Most people focus on weaknesses, but you should also focus on strengths.
  • Weighing up which points are the most useful in a conclusion.

A note on using the item:

Every 30 mark question will ask you to refer to an ‘item’. This will be a very short piece of writing, consisting of about 8 lines of text. The item will typically refer to one aspect of the knowledge side of the question and one evaluation point. For example, if the question is asking you to ‘assess the Functionalist view of education’, the item is likely to refer to one point Functionalists make about education – such as role allocation, and one criticism.

All you need to do to use the item effectively is to make sure at least one of your points stems from the knowledge in the item, and develop it. It’s a good idea to make this your first point. To use the evaluation point from the item (there is usually some evaluation in there), then simply flag it up when you use it during the essay.

Seven examples of sociology essays, and more advice…

For more information on ‘how to write sociology essays for the A level exam’ why not refer to my handy ‘how to write sociology essays guide’. 

The contents are as follows:

Introductory Section

  • A quick look at the three sociology exam papers
  • A pared-down mark scheme for A Level sociology essays
  • Knowledge, application, analysis, evaluation, what are they, how to demonstrate them.
  • How to write sociology essays – the basics:

The Essays

These appear first in template form, then with answers, with the skills employed shown in colour. Answers are ‘overkill’ versions designed to get full marks in the exam.

  1. Assess the Functionalist View of the Role of Education in Society (30) – Quick plan
  1. Assess the Marxist view of the role of education in society (30) – Detailed full essay
  1. Assess the extent to which it is home background that is the main cause of differential education achievement by social class (30) – Detailed full essay
  1. Assess the view that education policies since 1988 have improved equality of educational opportunity (30) – Quick plan
  1. Assess the view that the main aim of education policies since 1988 has been to raise overall standards in education.’ (30) – Quick plan
  1. Assess the claim that ‘ethnic difference in educational achievement are primarily the result of school factors’ (30) – Detailed full essay
  1. Assess the view that in school processes, rather than external factors, are the most important in explaining differences in educational achievement (30) – detailed essay – Quick plan.