Evaluating the New Right’s Perspective on Education

In this post I offer four pieces of evidence students can use to evaluate the New Right’s perspective on education, particularly their claim that Marketisation policies since 1988 have raised standards for all pupils.

Item A: GCSE Pass Rates

Probably the strongest piece of supporting evidence for the New Right’s policies on education is that they have worked to improve GCSE results nearly every year for the last 30 years:

The latest reports focusing on the long term trend are a bit dated, such as this one from The Guardian, but it clearly shows a long term improvement in grades at GCSE:

Despite recent dips in top grades, this 2013 report from Full Fact, which also focuses on the long term trend in results since 1988 points out that:

  • The pass rate for grades A*-C has increased by almost two-thirds from 42.5% in 1988 to 68.1% in 2013.
  • A*/A grades have almost trebled from 8.6% in 1988 to 21.3% in 2013.

However, the report also recognizes that some of this is due to grade inflation as this increase in performance is not mirrored by English and Welsh students in international tests, such as PISA BELOW.

Item B: PISA international league tables

(http://www.oecd.org/pisa/aboutpisa/)

The PISA league tables demonstrate how the neoliberal/ New Right idea of ranking educational achievement has gone global – Since the year 2000 we now have International Education League Tables.

Since the year 2000, every three years, fifteen-year-old students from randomly selected schools worldwide take tests in the key subjects: reading, mathematics and science, with a focus on one subject in each year of assessment. In 2012, some economies also participated in the optional assessments of Problem Solving and Financial Literacy.

Students take a test that lasts 2 hours. The tests are a mixture of open-ended and multiple-choice questions that are organised in groups based on a passage setting out a real-life situation. A total of about 390 minutes of test items are covered.  Students take different combinations of different tests.

PISA is unique because it develops tests which are not directly linked to the school curriculum. The tests are designed to assess to what extent students at the end of compulsory education, can apply their knowledge to real-life situations and be equipped for full participation in society.

The students and their school principals also answer questionnaires to provide information about the students’ backgrounds, schools and learning experiences and about the broader school system and learning environment.

The UK currently ranks 23rd for English and Maths.

Item C: Stephen Ball (2003)

argues that government policies of choice and competition place the middle class at an advantage. They have the knowledge and skills to make the most of the opportunities on offer. Compared to the working class they have more material capital, more social capital – access to social networks and contacts which can provide information and support.

Ball refers Middle class parents as ‘skilled choosers’. Compared to working class parents (disconnected choosers) they are more comfortable with dealing with public institutions like schools, they are more used to extracting and assessing information. For example, they use social networks to talk to parents whose children are attending the schools on offer. They collect and analyse information about GCSE results, and they are more used to dealing with and negotiating with administrators and teachers. As a result, if entry to a school is limited, they are more likely to gain a place for their child.

Ball also talked of the school/ parent alliance: Middle class parents want middle class schools and schools want middle class pupils. In general, the schools with more middle class students have better results. Schools see middle class students as easy to teach and likely to perform well. They will maintain the schools position in the league tables and its status in the education market.

Item D: Sue Palmer – The Problems of Tests, Targets And Education

Sue Palmer Is usually introduced in Families and Households module. She argues that technological and social changes have made modern childhood ‘toxic’, and testing in education (because of league tables and The New Right) is part of this problem. Sue Palmer writes…..

‘As long as league tables exist, in a risk averse society most people daren’t ignore them. Primary schools at the top of the league (which, by a strange coincidence, tend to be in the wealthiest areas) have a reputation to maintain; those at the bottom have to try to claw a little higher. The status of all interested adults (teachers, governors, parents) depends on how their Year Sixes perform in national tests.

So from four years of age, our children now live in the shadow of SATs. ‘No time for play in the reception class now,’ one teacher told me ruefully. ‘As soon as they arrive, it’s fast forward to the Key Stage One test.’ The curriculum is dominated by the core subjects of English, Maths and Science, broken down into a series of discrete‘learning objectives’ – closely matched to ‘assessment criteria’ – to be ticked off as children progress through the school.

There are ‘voluntary’ SATs for each year group, so children’s progress (and teachers’ competence in coaching their pupils) can be checked every summer. Then, in Year Six, come several months of concentrated exam practice, ‘booster classes’ during the Easter holidays for those who might not scrape the required mark, and sleepless nights for 11-year-olds terrified of ‘letting themselves down’ on the day.

Not surprisingly, this regime leaves far less time for creative but unquantifiable experiences, like art, drama and music, which through the millennia have nurtured children’s imaginations and contributed incalculably to their emotional and social development. Less time also for the active, hands-on learning children need if they’re genuinely to understand the concepts underpinning the tests.

Last year researchers found that the conceptual understanding of today’s 11-year-olds lags two to three years behind their counterparts in 1990. While performance on pencil-and-paper tests of has soared over this period, children are apparently less likely to understand the principles they’ve been trained to tick boxes about.

Research published recently by the independent Alexander Review of primary education shows that – on tests other than those for which children are coached – there have been only modest improvements in mathematics, and little change in literacy standards. And in last month’s PIRLS survey of international achievement in literacy, England had actually gone backwards, slumping from 3rd to 19th place.

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How to get an A* in A-level Sociology (Paper 2: Families and Households section only)

Drawing on marked exemplars from the AQA exam board this post unpicks what you need to do to get and A* in the the AQA’s topics in sociology paper (7192/2) – for section A only, families and households option

This post draws on marked examples from the AQA exam board’s A-level sociology papers 7192/32: Topics in Sociology to demonstrate what you need to do to get an A* grade in sociology A-level.

NB – this post only refers to section A: the families and households option, your option in section A might be different, and you will need to repeat this level of performance in section B in order to A* this paper!

According to the AQA’s 2017 A-level grade boundaries you need an average of about 60 raw marks out of a total of 80 get an A* in paper 2. This means you can ‘drop’ 20 marks and still get into the A* category.

A grade sociology

However, let’s play it safe and say that the easiest way to ‘guarantee’ your A* is to just sneak into the top mark bands for each of the questions. If you did this in section A, you would get:

  • Q04 – 8/10
  • Q05 – 8/10
  • Q06 – 17/20

= Total marks of 66/80, if you repeat this performance for the same question styles in section B, COMFORTABLY into the A* category!

The remainder of this post explains how to get top band marks in each of the 3 style of questions on paper 3, drawing on specific examples from a the AQA’s specimen papers and some model marked scripts from last year’s 2017 A-level sociology examination series.

For more details on how these exams are assessed, please see the AQA’s web site.

Strategies to get an A* in A Level sociology (focusing on paper 7192/2, families and households option)

Question 04: the 10 mark, no item, question: outline two ways/ reasons/ criticisms, no item

The example below, from the 2017 paper 2 achieved 8/10.

Q05: Applying material from item A ‘Analyse Something’

This is my summary of the the AQA’s guidance on the two types of 10 mark question (the second type is question 06 below).

To summarise the key points from the top band of the mark scheme for this type of question, you need:

  • Good knowledge and understanding of relevant material
  • Two reasons/ ways/ effects (whatever the action word is)
  • Two developed applications from the item
  • analysis and/ or evaluation of these effects.

So far, so abstract: the question below is a full mark answer taken from the AQA’s 2017 A-level paper 7192/2.

Question 06: the 20 mark ‘evaluate’ something using the item essay question

This question will ask you to evaluate something using an item.

To get into the top mark band, you basically need to demonstrate excellent knowledge and understanding, analysis and evaluation, AND use the item, and conclude!

Below is a link to a response taken from the AQA’s 2016 specimen material which achieved 17/20 – so just into the top band!

Sources 

  • The AQA’s 2016 A level specimen paper and commentaries.
  • 2017: A-level SOCIOLOGY: Feedback on the Examinations Student responses and commentaries: Paper 2 7192/2

Evaluate the view that the growth of family diversity has led to a decline in the nuclear family (20)

An example of a top band answer (17/20) to a possible question on the AQA’s 7192/2 topics in sociology paper (families option, section A)

This is an example of a 17/20 top band answer to the above question, as marked by the AQA.

In the pictures below, I’ve highlighted all of the candidate’s evaluations in red to show you the balance of knowledge and evaluation required to get into the top mark band!

This is also a good example of a borderline Band 4-Band 5 answer… it just wants a little more evaluation to go up even higher.

The mark scheme (top two bands)

Sociology essay mark scheme

Student’s Response (concepts highlighted in blue, evaluation in burnt orange)

NB It’s the same response all the way through, I’ve just repeated the title on the two pages!

 

Family diversity essay 2018

A-level sociology essay full marks

 

KT’s commentary

This is a bit of a bizarre essay, but this is a good example of how to answer it.

Without the final paragraph it would be floundering down in the middle mark band!

 

Source 

AQA specimen material 2016

How to get an A* in A-level Sociology (Crime and Deviance)

Drawing on marked exemplars from the AQA exam board this post unpicks what you need to do to get and A* in the the AQA’s Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods Paper (Sociology – 7192/3)

This post draws on marked examples from the AQA exam board’s A-level sociology papers 7192/3: Crime and Deviance with demonstrate what you need to do to get an A* grade in sociology A-level.

NB – The later links below will only become operational later this week! (Everything by Weds!)

According to the AQA’s 2017 A-level grade boundaries you need an average of 60 raw marks out of a total of 80 get an A* in paper 1. This means you can ‘drop’ 20 marks and still get into the A* category.

A grade sociology

However, let’s play it safe and say that the easiest way to ‘guarantee’ your A* is to max out the short answer (4-6) mark questions, and then sneak into the top mark bands for every other question. If you did that you’d end up with a total score of 67/80, made up of the marks as below

  • Q01 – 4/4 marks
  • Q02 – 6/6 marks
  • Q03 – 8/10 marks
  • Q04 – 25/30 marks
  • Q05 – 17/20 marks
  • Q06 – 8/10 marks

= Total marks of 68/70, which is still COMFORTABLY into the A* category!

The remainder of this post explains how to get full marks in the first two short answer ‘outline and explain’ (4 and 6 mark) questions and then examines the ‘top band’s of the mark schemes for the other 10 mark and essay questions, drawing on specific examples from a the AQA’s specimen papers and some model marked scripts from last year’s 2017 A-level sociology examination series.

For more details on how these exams are assessed, please see the AQA’s we site.

Strategies to get an A* in A Level sociology (focusing on paper 7192/3)

Questions 01 and 02: the four and six mark questions 

Q03: Applying material from item A ‘Analyse Something’

This is my summary of the the AQA’s guidance on the two types of 10 mark question (the second type is question 06 below).

To summarise the key points from the top band of the mark scheme for this type of question, you need:

  • Good knowledge and understanding of relevant material
  • Two reasons/ ways/ effects (whatever the action word is)
  • Two developed applications from the item
  • analysis and/ or evaluation of these effects.

So far, so abstract: the question below is a full mark answer taken from the AQA’s 2017 A-level paper 7192/3.

Question 04: the big, 30 mark, pure education essay question

This question will ask you to evaluate something using an item.

To get into the top mark band, you basically need to demonstrate excellent knowledge and understanding, analysis and evaluation, AND use the item, and conclude!

Below is a link to a response taken from the AQA’s 2015 specimen material which achieved 25/30 – so just into the top band!

Q05: The Methods in Context Question

This question can ask you about any method, or any theory (perspective) or any combination of both! Below is an example of a full mark response to the 2017 paper:

Q06: Outline and Explain Two…(10)

This final question will ask you to outline and explain two reasons, arguments, ways, criticisms etc…. there is no item, and unlike the other 10 mark question, there are no marks for evaluation!

Below are links to two marked exemplars, both of which achieved 10/10.

Remember that this exact question could appear on either paper 1, or paper 3!

Theory and Methods A Level Sociology Revision Bundle 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Theory and Methods Revision Bundle – specifically designed to get students through the theory and methods sections of  A level sociology papers 1 and 3.

Contents include:

  • 74 pages of revision notes
  • 15 mind maps on various topics within theory and methods
  • Five theory and methods essays
  • ‘How to write methods in context essays’.

Crime and Deviance Revision Notes for Sale 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Crime and Deviance Revision Notes  – 31 pages of revision notes covering the following topics:

  1. Consensus based theories part 1 – Functionalism; Social control’ theory; Strain theory
  2. Consensus based theories part 2 – Sub cultural theories
  3. The Traditional Marxist and Neo-Marxist perspective on crime
  4. Labeling Theory
  5. Left- Realist and Right-Realist Criminology (including situational, environmental and community crime prevention)
  6. Post-Modernism, Late-Modernism and Crime (Social change and crime)
  7. Sociological Perspectives on  controlling crime – the role of the community and policing in preventing crime
  8. Sociological Perspectives on Surveillance
  9. Sociological Perspectives on Punishment
  10. Social Class and Crime
  11. Ethnicity and Crime
  12. Gender and crime  (including Girl gangs and Rape and domestic violence)
  13. Victimology – Why are some people more likely to be criminals than others
  14. Global crime, State crime and Environmental crime (Green crime)
  15. The Media and Crime, including moral panics

Sources 

  • The AQA’s 2015 A level specimen paper and commentaries.
  • A-level SOCIOLOGY: Feedback on the Examinations Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/1 Education with Theory and Methods. Published: Autumn 2017
  • A-level SOCIOLOGY: Feedback on the Examinations Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/3: Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods. Published: Autumn 2017

Evaluate the usefulness of functionalist approaches in understanding crime and deviance (30)

This is an example of a 25/30 answer to the above question, as marked by the AQA.

In the pictures below, I’ve highlighted all of the candidate’s evaluations in red to show you the balance of knowledge and evaluation required to get into the top mark band!

This is also a good example of a borderline Band 4-Band 5 answer… it just wants a little more evaluation to go up even higher.

The mark scheme (top two bands)

crime-deviance-essay-full-mark-answer.png

Student’s Response (evaluation highlighted in red)

NB It’s the same response all the way through, I’ve just repeated the title on the two pages!

Evaluate functionalist views crime essay (30).png

Evaluate consensus theories crime (30).png

 

Examiner’s commentary

This is a thorough account of a range of functionalist studies. There is sophisticated understanding of the material presented.

Analysis is clear and the material is well explained using appropriate concepts. This conceptual detail in some evaluation is shown, although this is limited to internal evaluation between the various functionalist perspectives.

Other perspectives are only briefly mentioned in the final paragraph. This could be developed further to show a clear debate between perspectives. The answer shows application of material from the item and also from the student’s knowledge. This is accurately applied to the question.

The final concluding paragraph could be more developed. The brief points on Marxism and feminism could be developed throughout the answer rather then simply stated at the end.

Analysis is explicit and relevant.

Source 

AQA specimen material 2015

How to get an A* in A-level Sociology

Drawing on marked exemplars from the AQA exam board this post unpicks what you need to do to get and A*

This post draws on marked examples from the AQA exam board’s A-level sociology papers 7192/1: Education with Theory and Methods to demonstrate what you need to do to get an A* grade in sociology A-level.

NB – The later links below will only become operational later this week! (Everything by Friday!)

According to the AQA’s 2017 A-level grade boundaries you need an average of 60 raw marks out of a total of 80 get an A* in paper 1. This means you can ‘drop’ 20 marks and still get into the A* category.

A grade sociology

However, let’s play it safe and say that the easiest way to ‘guarantee’ your A* is to max out the short answer (4-6) mark questions, and then sneak into the top mark bands for every other question. If you did that you’d end up with a total score of 67/80, made up of the marks as below

  • Q01 – 4/4 marks
  • Q02 – 6/6 marks
  • Q03 – 8/10 marks
  • Q04 – 25/30 marks
  • Q05 – 16/20 marks (because top-banding is HIGHLY unlikely
  • Q06 – 8/10 marks

= Total marks of 67/70, which is still COMFORTABLY into the A* category!

The remainder of this post explains how to get full marks in the first two short answer ‘outline and explain’ (4 and 6 mark) questions and then examines the ‘top band’s of the mark schemes for the other 10 mark and essay questions, drawing on specific examples from a the AQA’s specimen papers and some model marked scripts from last year’s 2017 A-level sociology examination series.

For more details on how these exams are assessed, please see the AQA’s we site.

Strategies to get an A* in A Level sociology (focusing on paper 7192/2)

Questions 01 and 02: the four and six mark questions 

I’ve covered this in this post: how to answer 4 and 6 mark questions in A-level sociology. This post outlines the ‘1+1’ technique to answering these questions as well as containing a few examples

You might also like the following post:

A 4/6 mark answer from June 2017Outline three ways in which factors within school may affect gender differences in subject choice (06) – link takes you to a 4/6 marked response, but includes the mark scheme which shows you how you could have got 6//6.

Q03: Applying material from item A ‘Analyse Something’

This is my summary of the the AQA’s guidance on the two types of 10 mark question (the second type is question 06 below).

To summarise the key points from the top band of the mark scheme for this type of question, you need:

  • Good knowledge and understanding of relevant material
  • Two reasons/ ways/ effects (whatever the action word is)
  • Two developed applications from the item
  • analysis and/ or evaluation of these effects.

So far, so abstract: this link will take you to a full mark answer modified from the AQA’s 2017 A-level education paper.

You might also like this post, which outlines a 5/10 marked response, with good indicators of how to do it, and how not to do it!

Question 04: the big, 30 mark, pure education essay question

This question will ask you to evaluate something using an item.

To get into the top mark band, you basically need to demonstrate excellent knowledge and understand, analysis and evaluation, AND use the item, and conclude!

Click here for example of a 28/30 mark answer from the June 2017 Paper…. the question is on ‘the role of education in transmitting values’.

Q05: The Methods in Context Question

This is the question which asks you to evaluate the usefulness of using any method to research any topic within education.

The AQA marks these questions in band, let’s forget about bands 1 and 2, your’re way better than that:

  • Band 3 = good knowledge of methods
  • Band 4 = method applied to researching education in general
  • Band 5 = method applied to researching the topic in particular.

This is an example of a 20/20 methods in context answer, marked by the AQA (taken from an AS exemplar paper, but the format of question is the same for the A-level). The specific question is ‘Applying material from [the item], and your own knowledge, evaluate the strengths and limitations of using structured interviews to investigate the influence of the family on pupils’ education (20).

Q06: Outline and Explain Two…(10)

This final question will ask you to outline and explain two reasons, arguments, ways, criticisms etc…. there is no item, and unlike the other 10 mark question, there are no marks for evaluation!

Click here for an example of a full mark, 10/10 answer to to the question: ‘outline and explain two arguments against the view that sociology is a science (10). This is taken from the AQA’s 2015 Specimen material.

Remember that this exact question could appear on either paper 1, or paper 3!

Education Revision Bundle! 

Education Revision Bundle CoverIf you like this sort of thing, then you might like my sociology of education revision notes bundle – which contains the following:

  1. 34 pages of revision notes
  2. mind maps in pdf and png format – 9 in total, covering various topics within the sociology of education
  3. short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers
  4. how to write sociology essays, including 7 specific templates and model answers on the sociology of education

Theory and Methods A Level Sociology Revision Bundle 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Theory and Methods Revision Bundle – specifically designed to get students through the theory and methods sections of  A level sociology papers 1 and 3.

Contents include:

  • 74 pages of revision notes
  • 15 mind maps on various topics within theory and methods
  • Five theory and methods essays
  • ‘How to write methods in context essays’.

Sources 

  • The AQA’s 2015 A level specimen paper and commentaries.
  • A-level SOCIOLOGY: Feedback on the Examinations Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/1 Education with Theory and Methods. Published: Autumn 2017

How to Answer Methods in Context Questions: A Model Answer from the AQA

‘Methods in Context’ questions appear on A Level Sociology Paper 1 (Education with Theory and Methods) and AS Sociology Paper 1 (Education with Methods in Context).

Methods in Context questions will ask students to evaluate the strengths and limitations of any of the six main research methods for researching a particular topic within the sociology of education, applying material from the item.

Students often struggle with these questions and so it is useful to have exemplars which demonstrate how to answer them. Thankfully the AQA has recently released some of these, with examiner commentary, and below I’ve reproduced a top band 18/20 answer to one particular methods in context question!

NB – I’ve take this directly from the AQA’s feedback to the 2017 AS sociology exam series (specific source below), but I’ve repositioned the comments on each paragraph to make them more accessible (at the end of each paragraph, rather than at the end of the whole essay.

The specific question below appeared on the June 2017 AS Sociology Paper 1 – the whole paper is now publically available from the AQA’s web site.

Methods in Context

The Question:

Investigating working-class educational underachievement

Read Item B below and answer the question that follows.

ITEM B

On average, working-class pupils underachieve in education compared with those from middle-class backgrounds. Some sociologists believe that material deprivation is one factor that causes working-class underachievement. Other sociologists argue that values and attitudes in working-class homes may cause underachievement. School factors may also affect achievement.

Sociologists may use written questionnaires to study working-class educational underachievement. Using written questionnaires enables the researcher to reach a large number of pupils, parents and teachers. Also, those who complete the questionnaire can usually remain anonymous. However, not all those who receive a questionnaire will complete it.

Applying material from Item B and your knowledge of research methods, evaluate the strengths and limitations of using written questionnaires to investigate working-class educational underachievement.

The Mark Scheme (Top Band Only: 17-20)

Answers in this band will show accurate, conceptually detailed knowledge and good understanding of a range of relevant material on written questionnaires.

Appropriate material will be applied accurately to the investigation of the specific issue of working-class educational underachievement.

Students will apply knowledge of a range of relevant strengths and limitations of using written questionnaires to research issues and characteristics relating to working-class educational underachievement. These may include some of the following and/or other relevant concerns, though answers do not need to include all of these, even for full marks:

  • the research characteristics of potential research subjects, eg pupils, teachers, parents, (self-esteem; literacy skills; attitude to school)
  • the research contexts and settings (eg school; classroom; home environment).
  • the sensitivity of researching working-class underachievement (eg schools’ market position; negative publicity; vulnerability of participants; parental consent; teacher reluctance).

Evaluation of the usefulness of written questionnaires will be explicit and relevant. Analysis will show clear explanation and may draw appropriate conclusions

Student Answer – Awarded 18/20 (AS standard!)

Picture version:

Page 1

Page 2

Text Version:

Paragraphs as in actual student response, numbers added for clarity.

Examiner comments appear in red after each paragraph.

ONE – Written questionnaires are a type of survey where questions are standardised and distributed to large numbers of people. This is useful in an educational setting because it means they can be given to numerous students in numerous schools, something which is very important when investigating working class pupils as there are many regions which are predominantly working class.

First paragraph – general advantages of written questionnaires – standardised and large distribution. Attempt to link to topic

TWO – One major advantage of using questionnaires is that they pose relatively few practical issues. They are fairly cheap to create and distribute and they quick to fill out, especially if all questions are closed ended. This means that access is not usually an issue for the researcher as they will not disrupt lessons as much as other methods such as structured interviews, meaning that the researcher is more likely to received permission from the gatekeeper. Furhtermore, working class pupils are more likely to need to take on paid work and so the quick-nature of questinnaires which are not very time consuming means that they are useful for investigating working class underachievement.

Para 2 – advantage of Wc related to context of research in schools (gatekeepers).

THREE – However, when investigating working class pupils there may be the issue of cultural deprivation, particularly language issues. Berciler and Englemann argue that the language spoken by the working class is deficient, a particular issue when trying to interpret the questions on a written question questionnaire. When coupled with the fact that questionnaires are written in the elaborated code but working class pupils (and parents) tend to speak in the restricted code this can be a major problem in gaining accurate results; unlike with other methods, questions cannot be clarified

Para 3 – good link to topic and WQ re language and speech codes.

FOUR – As well as posing few practical issues, written questionnaires do not pose many ethical issues. This is because the respondent can remain anonymous if they so wish and they can also leave any intrusive or sensitive issues blank. When studying working class underachievement this is a particular advantage because some pupils may be embarrassed to discuss their home lives, particularly if they live in poverty.

Para 4 – ethical issues discussed – anonymity developed with reference to topic

FIVE – Even though there are relatively few ethical uses, the researcher must be aware of harm to respondents. For working class children there may be a stigma attached, and for sensitive issues such as home life, the use of questionnaires can still cause distress. Nevertheless, the fact that respondents are not obligated to respond means this ethical problem is easily overcome.

Para 5 – further developed with reference to topic

SIX – From the perspective of a positivist, written questionnaires are a useful way to investigate working class underachievement because the data produced when using standardised questions is quantitative and high in reliability. This makes questionnaires useful for investigating working class underachievement because it allows cause and effect relationships to be established, for example whether or the not the structure of the education system reproduces working class underachievement, or whether there is a correlation between family background and achievement. However, the nature of written questionnaires can be an issue if the researcher’s meaning is imposed onto the questionnaire so it is another  fact that must be taken into account

Para 6 – various positivist concepts – good on usefulness of WC – but not unique to topic

SEVEN – From the point of view of an interpretivist, written questionnaires are not useful when investigating working class underachievement because the data lacks validity. While questionnaires may be able to identify that factors such as material deprivation may influence the achievement of working class pupils, it does not get to the heart of the matter. Written questionnaires do not investigate the meanings that pupils may attach to the reasons they may underachieve, and do not let the respondent communicate their ideas freely. Because of this lack of validity interpretivists do not favour the use of written questionnaires to investigate working class underachievement.

Para 7 – interpretivism and validity – not related to topic specifically (generic)

EIGHT – Ultimately, written questionnaires can be useful to investigate working class underachievement because the data is easy to analyse and compare, which may be useful as the data could be used over time to look at whether government policies put in place to reduce working class underachievement really work. Not only that but they are representative, so generalisations about the wider population can be made in a way that methods favoured by interpretivists cannot.

Para 8 – attempt to relate strengths of WQs to topic

Overall COMMENT – very strong on method with some (2/3) clear links to topic

MARK: 18/20

For more examples of model answers to exam questions, please see the links on my main page on exam advice

Theory and Methods A Level Sociology Revision Bundle 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Theory and Methods Revision Bundle – specifically designed to get students through the theory and methods sections of  A level sociology papers 1 and 3.

Contents include:

  • 74 pages of revision notes
  • 15 mind maps on various topics within theory and methods
  • Five theory and methods essays
  • ‘How to write methods in context essays’.T

Sources:
AS
SOCIOLOGY
Paper 1 Education with Methods in Context
Tuesday 16 May 2017
AS
Sociology
7191/1 Education with Methods in Context
Final Mark scheme
7191
June 2017
Version/Stage: v1.0
AS
SOCIOLOGY
Feedback on the exam(s)
Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 Education with Methods in Context
Published: Autumn 2017

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.

How I would’ve answered A level sociology paper 3: crime and deviance with theory and methods, June 2017

Crime and deviance with theory and methods is the third and final exam paper (7192/3) in the AQA A level sociology specification – below are a few thoughts on how I would’ve answered the paper from the June 2017 exam…

Sociology paper 3: Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods, 2017 

Q01 – Two reasons for ethnic differences in offending

I’m a bit concerned that the plural on differences means you need to talk about two different ethnic groups… so to be on the safe side. (Of course it’s not obvious that you need to do this from the question, and maybe you don’t, but remember the AQA’s burning hatred of teenagers… I wouldn’t put it past them!

To be on the safe side…

  • African-Caribbeans more likely to end up in jail due to more serious nature offences (knife/ gun convictions) compared to whites
  • Asians over represented due to Islamophobia – more labelling by media/ public/ police = higher conviction rate.

Both of those need to be better articulated, but they are two completely different reasons!

The hub post for ethnicity and crime is here – official statistics on ethnicity and crime

Q02 – Outline three functions of crime

BOOM!

Or so you probably thought… it’s simply a matter of explaining Durkheim’s three functions of crime:

  • Integration
  • Regulation
  • Social chance

BUT – Have you really nailed the difference between integration (belonging/ connections) and regulation (clarity of rules/ prevention of anomie)?

Q03 – Analyse two ways in which deviant subcultures may respond to the difficulties of achieving mainstream goals

The item directs you to underachievement at school and deprived or unstable neighbourhoods. You could draw on the material from subcultural theory – so I’d go with…

  • Albert Cohen’s status frustration and the standard rebellious subcultures.
  • Then you could draw on Cloward and Ohlin’s subcultural types (there’s that burning hatred of teenagers again, this is turgid old stuff that could be relevant) – criminal or retreatist subcultures
  • To link into the above point you could draw on Merton’s responses to strain and just relate these to subcultures.

Q04 – Evaluate sociological contributions to crime prevention strategies

The item directs you to both right and left realism and then surveillance… so it’s simply a matter of

Obviously topped and tailed with an intro and conclusion

Q05 – Outline two advantages of choosing overt observation compared to covert observation

I covered this at the bottom of this post of participant observation, but you’d need to expand on all the points!

I’d probably go for point 1 validity and point 2 on ethics to make sure the two points are very different.

One thing you NEED to do for this is to compare the two -overt and covert!

Q06 – Evaluate the view that conflict approaches are more useful than consensus approaches in our understanding of society

Straightforward – the item directs you to consensus and Marxism and labelling theory (also Weber’s social action theory, but I’d leave that aside and just settle for 16 or 17 out of 20) and talks about power.

So simply –

Point 1 – Functionalism and evaluate using contemporary evidence

Point 2 – Marxism and evaluate using contemporary evidence

Point 3 – Social action theory and evaluate using contemporary evidence

Overall evaluation – use PM to criticise both, and conclude that conflict theories are absolutely more relevant!

Overall I thought this was a reasonable paper! Classic, even.