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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.

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‘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!

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Learning as a Product Versus Learning as Process

Many of the theories of learning that were developed during the first decades of the twentieth century tended to conceptualize learning as an end product or outcome – most often as a distinct change in behavior.

Students and educators who subscribe to this notion of learning-as-product tend to see learning as consisting of the following:

  • A quantitative increase in knowledge
  • Memorizing or storing information that can later be retrieved.
  • Acquiring facts, skills and methods that can be retained and used as necessary.

However, it is also possible to see learning as an ongoing process, and people who subscribe this notion of learning tend to describe learning as:

  • Learning as making sense or abstracting meaning, learning that involves relating parts of the subject matter to each other and to the real world.
  • Learning as interpreting and understanding reality in a different way, learning that involves comprehending the world by reinterpreting knowledge.

These later two descriptions of learning as an ongoing process see the learner as building upon his or her previous experiences and, in some instances, changing his or her behavior as a result.

Learning as a process is the view of learning that many contemporary educationalists and psychologists would concur with. As Bruner (1996) puts it ‘learning is not simply a technical business of well managed information processing’. Instead, learning might also be seen to involve individuals having to make sense of who they are and develop an understanding of the world in which they live. From this perspective, learning can be seen as a continuing process of ‘participation’ rather than a discrete instance of acquisition.

IMO working within a marketised education system encourages us to see learning as a product – that is the ‘bottom line’ of education is the results, and there is much store placed on exam-training in order to game the system and get better results (the final outcome), and students, teachers and parents increasingly judge the quality of a school or it teachers on their ability ‘to deliver results’.

This is, in fact, an extremely narrow and shallow way to judge the quality of education.

If, on the other hand, we consider ‘learning as a process’ this forces us to focus on the quality of the learning experience and the context in which learning takes place – reflecting on the marketised system we realize what a poor educational experience many of us get (teachers and students alike) because of the pressure to achieve results. In such a system, there is little time to ‘understand the world and who we are’.

Another benefit of seeing learning as a process is that we come to realize that ‘learning’ takes place in many contexts outside of the formal education system – at home, at work, and through the many informal channels through which we ‘develop ourselves’.

Maybe more of us need to forget formal education with its obsession with learning as a product, and instead just focus more on life-long learning and self-development outside of formal education?

Sources

Selwyn (2017) Education and Technology – Key Issues and Debates

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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?

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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.

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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!

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Sentence Sorts for Teaching A-Level Sociology – How Useful Are They?

Matching exercises or ‘sentence sorts’ simply involve students matching the concept/ sociologist/ perspective/ method to a definition/ statement.

Simple example:

Decide whether the sentences are below are Functionalist or Marxist – simply write ‘F’ or ‘M’ next to the sentence.

1.            Education reproduces inequality by justifying privilege and attributing poverty to personal failure.

2.            The education system plays an important part in the process of encouraging individuals to have a sense of loyalty and commitment to society as a whole.

3.            The teaching of subjects such as history enables children to see the link between themselves and wider society.  The National Curriculum, with it’s emphasis on British history shows pupils that they are part of something larger than their immediate social group.

4.            Although school presents itself as being meritocratic, the hidden curriculum produces a subservient workforce, who accept hierarchies of power.

 The easiest way to format these is simply as above – a title, brief instruction, and anywhere from 10 (or less if you like) to 20 (more is probably too many) statements/ definitions. You might like to use a grid (as in example 2 over page) for paper versions as it provides a more obvious space for students to write into. For more difficult topics, provide a jumbled list of concepts at the bottom.

Obviously if you’re designing your own, do the answer version first, then just delete the single or short-phrase answers. Numbering the definitions/ statements makes feedback easier!

Topics matching exercises work well especially for

  • After Functionalism, Marxism and Feminism, or all the perspectives for any of the topics within A-level sociology.
  • For material deprivation/ cultural deprivation and social/ cultural capital in class and education.
  • For the main changes with different waves of education policy
  • For strengths and limitations of any research method – one of the best I’ve seen is a range of sentences which are either strengths or limitations for either lab or field experiments.
  • Any sub-topic that’s very conceptual – such as childhood within the family.

Different ways of administering sentence sorts

  • Personally I still like the one-side of paper method – simply needs about 12 definitions/ statements and students just write in the concept/ method or whatever next to it.
  • These days of course, you can always put sentence sorts online – Quizlet, or Socrative work very well for this.
  • A way of adding in ‘stretch’ to this is to add in a third column in which you ask students to ‘give an example’ or ‘the opposite’ or to provide supporting evidence, or even criticise the concept/
  • NB The ‘gap fill exercise’ – don’t be fooled by a gap-fill paragraph exercise, it’s basically just a matching exercise/ sentence sort in disguise.

Three examples of Sentence Sorts for A-level sociology

The examples below show three typical applications of this method…. perspectives, ‘match the stat’ (which is quite good to introduce a new topic) and concepts. Unforunately they don’t format very well on a blog, but they’re just to give you an idea – they’ve all been designed to fit on one side of A4 paper. 

Example 1: Sociological perspectives on the role of education

Sort the following statements into either Marxism, Functionalism or Feminism, simply write in F/M or Fem….

  1. Girls may follow the same curriculum as boys, may sit side by side with boys in classes taught by the same teachers and yet emerge from school with the implicit understanding that the world is a man’s world, in which women take second place.
  2. Education reproduces inequality by justifying privilege and attributing poverty to personal failure.
  3. The education system plays an important part in the process of encouraging individuals to have a sense of loyalty and commitment to society as a whole.
  4. The teaching of subjects such as history enables children to see the link between themselves and wider society. The National Curriculum, with it’s emphasis on British history shows pupils that they are part of something larger than their immediate social group.
  5. Classroom interaction reflects the sexist attitudes and male dominance of the wider society.
  6. By transmitting and reinforcing the culture of society to new generations, education helps to ensure the continuity of rules and values.
  7. Although school presents itself as being meritocratic, the hidden curriculum produces a subservient workforce, who accept hierarchies of power.
  8. The classroom is a ‘mini-society’ which provides a training ground for the wider society and eases the transition from childhood to adulthood.
  9. Education has an important role of society reproduction, meaning that it is involved in the reproduction of new generations of workers appropriately schooled to accept their roles in capitalist society.
  10. Schools help to abridge the gap from the ascribed status of the family to the achieved status of society as a whole.
  11. Schools promote the shared value of achievement – at school young people are rewarded for academic achievement with good exam results. This, in turn, socialises young people for their adult roles.
  12. The education system is the main agency for ideological control. People accept their situation in life because at school they have learn that capitalism is just and reasonable.
  13. The hidden curriculum, including the social relations in the classroom and the attitudes and expectations of teachers, prepare girls for male domination and control.
  14. Schools prepare pupils for their roles in the workforce. Most are trained as workers and are taught to accept future exploitation and are provided with an education and qualifications to match their future work roles.
  15. The hidden curriculum produces a fragmentation of knowledge so that ordinary workers do not become educated and overthrow the ruling class.
  16. Schools reinforce gender inequality in wider society.

 

Example 2: Key facts and stats about families and households in Modern Britain

Match the stat to the question. All of these issues come up at some point over the next eight weeks of the course. 

  1. What percentage of marriages end in divorce?  42%
  2. How many children do the average family have? 92
  3. How much does it cost to raise a child to the age of 18? £230,000
  4. What is the average age which women have their first child? 30
  5. When did rape in marriage become illegal? 1991
  6. On average, how much more money a year does it cost to live a year if you are a single person living alone? £250,000
  7. What percentage of households with children in are single parent households? 25%
  8. What proportion of relationships consists of same-sex couples? 152 000
  9. What percentage of men have been victims of domestic violence? 13%

OBVIOUSLY I’ve given the answers here, the numbers would be at the bottom, I’ve also been lazy and missed out sources.

Example 3: Key Concepts in the sociology of the family

Concept Definition
Birth Rate The number of babies born per thousand per year.

 

Civil Partnership

 

The legally or formally recognised union of a man and a woman (or in some countries two people of the same sex) in a committed relationship.
Co-habitation Two people living together in the same household in an emotionally intimate, committed relationship without being officially married.

 

Death Rate The number of deaths per thousand members of a population per year.
Emotion Work Thinking about the emotional well-being of other members of the family and acting in ways which will be of emotional benefit to others. For example, hugging and reassuring children when they have nightmares, organizing Christmas and birthday parties so that everyone feels included and has a good time.
Individualisation The process where individuals have more freedom to make life-choices and shape their identities because of a weakening of traditional social structures, norms and values. For example, secularization means people have more choice over whether they should get married or simply cohabit.
Instrumental Role The provider or breadwinner role which involves going out to work and earning money for the family – the traditional male role within the family.

 

Matrifocal Household A family structure in which mothers are the heads of household and fathers have less power and control in family life and the allocation of resources.

 

Net Migration

 

The difference between the numbers of people immigrating to and emigrating from a country.
Nuclear Family A man and a woman and their dependent children, either their own or adopted.

 

Patriarchy A society where men hold the power and women are excluded, disadvantaged or oppressed.  An example of a patriarchal society is one which women are not allowed to vote, but men are.
Primary Socialisation The first stages of learning the norms and values of a society; learning basic skills and norms, such as language, and basic manners.

 

Serial Monogamy Where an individual has a string of committed relationships, one after the other.

 

Social Construction of Childhood The idea that the norms and values and social roles associated with childhood are influenced by society, rather than being determined by the biological age of a child.
Toxic Childhood Where social changes, especially the invention of new technologies, does increasing amounts of harm to children. For example, the internet and mobile phones results in screen saturation with increases anxiety and reduces attention spans.

NB – If you print this off, the grid format is much easier on the eye than the non-grid version. 

 

How useful are sentence sorts in teaching and learning sociology?

Open question.. please do lemme know what you think!

 

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Seven Transferable Skills Teachers Can Take to Other Professions

  1. Producing engaging written and audio visual resources
  2. Emotional sensitivity
  3. Evaluation and decision making based on standardized criteria
  4. Presentation and communication skills
  5. Facilitating participation
  6. Simultaneous independent and collaborative working
  7. Reflexivity, which incorporates flexibility.

Seven transferable skills which teachers can take with them to kinder careers

Given the depth and breadth of skill which teaching requires, combined with the unbearable amount of stress which teachers are expected to soak up, teaching is without doubt one of the most undervalued professions in the United Kingdom, and I’m fairly sure this is also the case in pretty much every country outside of Scandinavia.

Evidence for this (at least in the UK) lies in the fact that 30% of teachers quit within five years, and the thought of quitting is no doubt at the forefront of the majority of teachers’ minds towards the end of a long summer holiday; and no, a six week summer holiday is not enough compensation.

Just in case you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of undervalued teachers thinking of moving on, here’s a list of transferable skills which you can use to promote yourself to your next employer….

  1. Producing written and audio visual resources that engage a differentiated audience for a sustained period (over month or years) – teachers are required not only to produce quality written ‘work sheets’ which are clearly written and structured, they also have to incorporate a range of audio visual (video/ podcast/ websites/ online tests) within these in order to engage learners. A related benefit is that teachers tend to have both sound levels of knowledge in their specific fields and excellent spelling, grammar and punctuation.*
  2. Emotional Sensitivity – working with vulnerable children requires teachers to pick up on the special needs of students early on, which may not be communicated verbally by the students themselves. An extremely useful skill when working with a range of colleagues and clients in any profession.
  3. Judgement and decision making – the ability to evaluate students’ work according to standardized criteria and provide constructive oral and written feedback to help students/ colleagues/ clients improve their performance in a timely fashion
  4. Presentation skills – teaching requires the ability to present complex information in clear, concise and accessible manner, communicating the goals of lessons clearly to participants at the beginning of a particular session. It also involves the use of humor, analogies, examples, metaphors, stories, and delivery methods other than lecture or PowerPoint to engage an audience.
  5. Facilitating participation through small and large group discussions – teaching involves doing a range of pair-work and discussion work in groups of 3-6, with feedback being given to the whole class. Teachers are experts in making sure everyone feels like they are participating and having a voice.
  6. Independent and Collaborative working – teaching involves both working independently to plan lessons/ mark students work, while simultaneously working collaboratively with colleagues to share information about students in  order to deliver the best outcome for students.
  7. Reflexivity – The ability to continually reflect on one’s own performance and respond to constructive criticism based on feedback from peers and supervisors in order to improve one’s own performance. All of this has to be done within the context of shifting parameters of educational policy, so one also has to pick up new skills and knowledge in order to respond to systemic changes.

Sources and comments on other people’s lists of teaching transferable skills 

I derived this list from the two lists below. Mine is better, but thanks to those who gave me a leg up!

Gina Smith from Branden University suggests the following list Of Top 20 Transferable-Skills:

  1. Active Listening
  2. Complex Problem Solving
  3. Coordination
  4. Critical Thinking
  5. Diagnostic Tests
  6. Grading
  7. Instructing
  8. Judgment and Decision Making
  9. Learning Strategies
  10. Lesson Plan Development
  11. Problem solving
  12. Management
  13. Monitoring
  14. Multitasking
  15. Reading Comprehension
  16. Relationship Management
  17. Service Orientation
  18. Speaking
  19. Social Perceptiveness
  20. Time Management
  21. Writing

How useful is this list?

To be blunt, I don’t find this particularly useful – somehow the list manages to include too much information and not enough specificity both at the same time. If you were going to write a new C.V. in order to transition out of teaching, you would probably include all of the above words, but you’d be better off re categorizing them so you had fewer key-skills.

Whoever it is who writes the ‘Life after Teaching Blog’ provides the following five basic transferable skills for teachers:

1. strong written and oral communication skills

2. strong interpersonal skills

3. demonstrated ability to work independently

4. demonstrated problem solving skills/ability to learn new things quickly

5. demonstrated ability to work under pressure/in a fast paced, deadline-driven environment

How useful is this list? 

Well it’s better than the above list because they’ve thought about the key ‘skill sets’ better – personally I think this is a nice, general list, and full disclosure, this guy also has another list of ’12 skills which teachers have’ which helped me a lot with writing the above post!

If, like me, you’re also thinking about quitting teaching, do get in touch.

*If you call me out on my own slightly dodgy grammar it WILL NOT be appreciated, in fact, regard yourself as having received a virtual slap if you’re one of the smug.

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How I Structure A-Level Sociology Lessons

Below is an overview of broad structure I use to teach every topic in the A-level sociology syllabus, and it’s my first post directed at sociology teachers rather than students.

I typically stretch the structure below over four hour long lessons in a week (I think the norm is 3-4 lessons in most schools and colleges), meaning that lesson one would be an ‘intro lesson’, lessons two and three ‘exploring lessons’ and lesson four the formal or informal ‘assessment lesson’.

NB – the week long, 3-4 lesson structure doesn’t work for all topics as some topics within A-level sociology are too short or long, but for shorter topics, you can stretch this structure over just one hour long lesson, just cutting out a few stages (or get students to do some of them at home) for longer topics (perspectives) you can just split the perspectives up.

Any of the stages can be extended or reduced, or omitted as time allows/ doesn’t allow.

Some people might balk at the idea of such a generic structure, but there’s a lot of variety within each section to mix things up.

If there’s enough interest in this sort of thing then ‘ll post some specific examples of a week’s worth of teaching for certain topics. It’s probably worth mentioning that I use ‘learning packs’ which integrate all of this btw.

Also, you might note, I’m a big fan of note taking – you can make this as creative as you like, but it needs to be done!

Lesson one – introducing the topic/ stating aims/ getting students thinking/ Clarifying difficult material/ note taking.

  1. State Aims/ Provide an overview of the topic
    • Normally on a PPT.
    • Could take the form of a ‘question’
    • For difficult topics you could even spend 20 minutes lecturing.
  2. Getting students thinking –
    • Find out what students know already – simply provide a question, they think up quick answers… or further questions!
    • Provide a data response with questions
    • Do a true/ false activity
    • If possible provide some questions that link back to previous, related topics.
  3. Preferably outside of the lesson – students do their own notes/ or a grid/ or simply answer questions – Provide Hand-outs/ text books with core knowledge
    • Getting students to structure their own notes is the most effective way of them learning.
    • If you’ve got them, you could use ‘learning packs’ with analytical questions.
    • I use summary grids all the time at this stage. Research has shown that all students love summary grids, although there’s no actual evidence to support this.
    • Quite a nice activity is to get students to compare notes/ suggest improvements/ even vote on the best set of notes.
    • You could of course do NOTE TAKING IN THE LESSON – 20 minutes once a fortnight/ once a week is hardly a crime against humanity (just a crime against OFSTED).

Lessons two and three – first informal assessment/ data responses/ researching, exploring and discussing

  1. First wave of Assessment for Learning (PAIRS/ GROUPS) – assessing concepts/ explanations/ evaluations (NOT elaboration at this phase)
    • Sentence sort – e.g. match the perspective to the statement.
    • Gap fill
    • Ranking – I’m sure you all know about cards
    • Brief summary writing – show a question on a ppt, include 10 concepts underneath, get students to write a brief paragraph in answer to the question (one of my favourite activities)
    • Quick posters passed round – different pairs take (for example) one of Marxism/ Feminism/ Functionalism – first pair add in concepts/ second pair evaluations/ third pair selects the most important idea (there ar lots of other versions)
    • Quick group quiz – of course, you could get the students to write the questions too.
  2. Video or data or music response case studies! Normally individual work, focusing What these suggest about a question/ concept
    • Get students to watch/ read/ listen the ‘item’
    • Discuss as a whole class or in groups – any of – what concepts does this demonstrate/ what perspectives does it support criticise/ etc…
    • If we’re doing methods/ education, this where I’ll do Methods in context planning activities.
    • If you’re watching a video, you can easily set it in advance, and show a brief clip at the beginning of a lesson to lead into this.
  3. Exploring in More Depth/ researching something in pairs or small groups (the easiest way to include Stretch and Challenge) – students basically produce something and then share it with the rest of the class
    • Straightforward web-search with question sheets
    • Produce a nice poster for the wall.
    • For anything about social policy – a ‘what would you do?’ type activity.
    • Write a letter to a government minister/
    • Actually go out and do some research
  4. Feedback findings to the rest of the class or to another group
    • If I’m doing full-on class presentations, I’ll always be selective.
    • I also get students to upload whatever they’ve done to a Moodle Forum so their work can be access later.

Lesson four – informal or formal assessment

  1. Second wave assessment for learning – more complex that the first wave earlier – covering most of the topic or sub-topic
    • Define these concepts, and explain them questions
    • Complete Venn Diagrams to show differences and similarities
    • Outline and explain questions (taken from the exam)
    • Marking and improving exercises (based on what they’ve previously done!)
    • Essay planning tasks – using essay planning grids
  2. Formal Assessment Work – Focussing tightly on the exam, without notes (usually done in the following week)
    • Moodle/ Socrative Quizzes
    • In-class Short answer tests
    • Essay paragraphs – focussing on explaining/ elaborating, analysing or evaluating
    • Once every term – a full on exam
  3. Extension work – simply provide links to…
    • Reading
    • Music link
    • Twitter etc.
    • Further questions…
    • My blog! Or a blog!
    • They blog?