A-level Sociology Teaching Resources (Crime and Deviance)

I’ve just released the first of four packages of teaching resources for Crime and Deviance as part of my sociology teaching resources subscription package, available for only £9.99 a month!

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This month’s (May 2021) teaching resource bundle contains work books and Power Points covering eight lessons on Crime and Deviance – Intro to Crime, Functionalism and Consensus Theories and Marxism and Crime

Resources in the May 2021 bundle include

  1. Intro to Crime
  2. Intro to Crime Statistics
  3. Introducing perspectives on Crime and Deviance using the London Riots as an example
  4. Consensus Theories 1 – Functionalism, Bonds of Attachment and Strain Theory
  5. Consensus Theories 2 – Subcultural and Underclass Theory
  6. Marxism and Crime 1 – Crimogenic Capitalism and Corporate Crime
  7. Marxism and Crime 2 – Selective Law Enforcement and the ‘real’ functions of punishment
  8. Marxism and Crime 3  – Marxism and Crime Letter writing research task

The lessons are typically planned to last for one hour and 15 minutes, although some are longer. The Consensus Theories for example are longer lessons. 

The materials contain a good deal of material applying Crime and Deviance to Coronavirus and Lockdown.

The next three months resources will also focus on Crime and Deviance and work through the rest of the specification.

Resources in the bundle include:

  • Work books
  • Power points
  • Also contained in this month’s (May 2021) teaching bundle is a students Scheme of Work and some revision/ review material.

Fully modifiable resources

Every teacher likes to make resources their own by adding some things in and cutting other things out – and you can do this with both the work pack and the PowerPoints because I’m selling them in Word and PPT, rather than as PDFs, so you can modify them!

NB – I have had to remove most the pictures I use personally, for copyright reasons, but I’m sure you can find your own to fit in. It’s obvious where I’ve taken them out!

More resources to come…

I’m making resources available every month as part of this teacher resource subscription package. The schedule of release of resources is as below:

Outline and Explain two reasons why some sociologists think improving gender equality is the primary development goal.

This is a possible 10 mark question which could come up on exam paper 7192 (2) – topics in Sociology, under the Global Development Option.

For more general advice on answering exam questions for A-level sociology please see this page.

The strategy for these 10 markers is to join up the dots, make links between gender and all other parts of the Global Development module – it shouldn’t be too difficult as everything is related to everything in fairly obvious ways for this topic!

Below is just one suggestion for an answer…

The first reason is that women make up half of the population and they have historically been disempowered in most cultures on earth. Thus by focussing on empowering women we can improve pretty much ever other aspect of development.

Focussing on improving girls and women’s education can have huge knock on positive effects – firstly it will immediately improve the school enrolment rates, as it is mainly girls who traditionally are not in school!

Also, by educating girls, this creates job opportunities for them in later life, meaning greater independence, and may also help to break traditional values threat modernisation theorists think prevent development.

Especially where girls are held back by traditional values, getting them into school can be a great way of breaking this cycle, maybe the only way.

Education can also be a decent way of preventing violence and abuse by men – it can be an important starting point in protecting them against Rape, FGM and other forms of male violence.

In the longer term, with more women in work and politics as a result of raised aspirations we may see a decline in global violence and militarism which we have in the current male dominated global political sphere – which is very important as nothing prevents development like conflict!

Focussing on improving maternal health care is also the most effective way at improving life expectancy – most deaths in poor countries are avoidable, and many are because of children dying in infancy.

By focussing on better maternal health the infant mortality rate will decrease and women will less inclined to have more children. Also if women are given better care during pregnancy, the same is also true.

Going forwards if women know they have decent maternal health care they can start to aspire to have only one or two children rather than being tied into a cycle of having several children, which ties women to a life of domestic drudgery.

With fewer children women are more likely to be able to do paid work, which is also beneficial for development because women tend to reinvest more in their families compared to men.

Having said all of this it is crucial that improving opportunities for girls and women is done appropriately, as there may be local resistance from patriarchal culture, so it may not be easy!

A-level Sociology Students -same study patterns during lockdown?

Here’s some interesting insight into the study patterns of students and how Lockdown doesn’t seem to be having any affect at all so far this year……

Here’s my blog hits since August 2020….

NB – despite an increase in traffic this year (which is nice) the pattern you see below has been exactly the same for the last few years….

There is a dip in August, over the summer holiday, but a slow build up in early September – I guess as schools but not colleges start earlier, and then we have a stable weekly trend from September through to mid December, except for a dip when half term week comes – NB there is always a slow down on that last week before half term too.

There’s a significant dip during the XMAS holidays, but that’s to be expected, and then straight back up into January, and not how the half term dip repeats itself.

The final pink line is this week’s already only up to Tuesday, so looks like a bumper week – probably teachers threatening tests on the return in a couple of weeks.

Here’s the daily trend for the last month – you can see the weekend tail off too, every week, and then the half term dip at the end, and finally Monday – first day back after half term.

There will be some differences later this year I think….

There’s no formal exams, probably to be replaced by in house tests which will be earlier than the usual exams I imagine, so I’m not anticipating the usual May-June insane peak in views, I imagine it will be less intense and more spread out as the dates of tests will vary slightly from institution to instiution.

Still, up until now, students are very much creatures of habit. Perhaps Positivists had a point? People really are predictable!

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Anuta – A Case Study in Global Development

The Island of Anuta is one of the remotest places on Earth – part of the Soloman Islands, it is a 5-6 day sail from the Capital, with its nearest inhabited neighbouring island being over 50 KM away.

Boats may visit the island as infrequently as three times a year, so the islanders cannot rely on them for resources, they have to make use of what is available to them on the island and in the ocean surrounding.

Anuta is a very small island, with an area of only 0.4 square Kilometres, but with a population of around 300 it has one of the highest population densities on planet earth, similar to that of Bangladesh.

This island community should be of interest to any student studying the global development option for A-level sociology, as this case study illustrates many of the key themes of this module.

In terms of ‘economic development the inhabitants of Anuta are very undeveloped, they are money poor, but they seem to have a very high quality of life, almost idyllic.

At the very least this case study will make you question the advantages of western models of development, and the idea that advanced industrial economies are necessarily the most progressive.

Research studies on Anuta

The anthropologist Richard Feinberg has spent some time researching life on Anuta – he spent a year there in the early 1970s and returned more recently to make the film below, which is available on YouTube:

Bruce Parry also visited Anuta for several weeks as part of his Tribe documentary series, and if you can get hold of that from the BBC, it’s well worth a watch, although at time of writing this is more than a decade old already!

A summary of the video

The documentary starts on board the boat with the film makers and anthropologist talking through expectations.

When the boat first arrives at the island, one of the islanders comes aboard who Richard Feinberg knew from his previous visit (about a decade earlier) and they hug for about five minutes (quite unusual in itself by Western standards.

We first see the welcoming scene in which about three dozen people come out to meet – greeting by touching foreheads, quite a slow affair (again by Western standards)

We learn that population is becoming an issue – it has doubled in ten years, since the year 2000. People were even then starting to worry about their privacy, not so much the resources.

We now see the formal greetings with the chiefs – there is a hierarchical structure – based on ascribed status – if you can’t trace your lineage back to chief, you are not going to be a chief!

Anuta: emphasises compassion and equality

A core value in Anutan society is that of Aropa – which emphasises compassion for others and collaborative working and sharing.

One very tangible way this value manifests itself is through the equal sharing of finite resources – food for example is shared equally among all the islands inhabitants

There is a strong support structure on Anuta, the idea of someone being alone and unsupported is almost unheard of, something which is all too common in the west.

The entire crew of the ship is invited onto the island for a welcome feast – they get a full on welcome ceremony with dancing etc.

When you ask Anutans why they do something – there are two stock answers –

  1. Because it’s tradition
  2. Because it makes us happy

It’s worth nothing how different this is to the Western idea of doing something for the money, which often makes us miserable (Weber’s Instrumental logic!)

All of the islanders come out for the feast, and all 300 great the ship’s crew with a nose kiss, which ‘breaks down the individual personal bubble’.

Lots of the ship’s crew comment on how the way of being greeted was very emotional, with a total breaking down of barriers, and a real sense of unity being created between everyone.

Some historical context

They now go and visit with the Chief and he reflects on the past – he talks of previous famines, one in which people were forced to eat dirt to survive – he quips that since the arrival of the Christian Church there has been no famine as bad – so ‘our new God protects us better than the old gods.’

Feinberg also notes that the Christian teaching of ‘love thy neighbour’ fits in well with the Anuta value of Aropa – in that sense they were Christians before the Church got there!

Population and Environment

The Anutans seem to live a very sustainable life, recognising that everything the need comes from nature.

Despite their growing population they are not worried, at least that’s what the chief says.

The Anutans are self-sufficient for the most part – Fishing is the main activity, but they also hunt seabirds and grow food on the Island, the staple crop being Manioc

They are not entirely cut off in that they do use industrial technology to hunt and farm – steel fishing spears for example.

Some of the islanders also attend school off-island, and there is a monetary fund to pay for that, but not much detail is provided on this aspect of island life!

Interestingly, they have zoned out regions of the sea around the island which have extensive coral reefs, and they manage them sustainably, with bans on fishing in some of them for periods, to be harvested when the fish are bigger – kind of a natural sustainable management system!

Canoes

Canoes are treated as part of the family – trees on Anuta are scares, so when one is felled to make a canoe, it is a big deal.

We get to see one canoe which is over 100 years old and still used for fishing.

They are so important that if a canoe is damaged, a funeral is held, as if it were a dead relative.

Leaving Ceremony

There is an extensive leaving ceremony – in which they have a final tour of the island, and there is a group lamentation in which everyone weeps (a lot) as the guests leave.

We’re reminded that the Anutans, while very aware of the wider world, have made a choice to maintain their traditional culture as much as they can.

Anuta: Relevance to A-Level sociology

This case study can be used as a criticism of Modernisation Theory and Western Ideals of development more generally. Clearly the Anutans have a very traditional way of life, as expressed in their value of Aropa.

Aropa is quite like the collectivism mentioned in Rostow’s modernisation theory, but it is difficult to argue that this is ‘holding their culture’ back in anyway.

Of course there are challenges this community faces going forwards, and of course they benefit from modernisation in some ways (fish hooks) but it’s difficult to see how their becoming a fully fledged part of the modern capitalist industrial economy would benefit these islanders.

Sources

Anuta – wikipedia entry.

Teaching Resources for A-level Sociology: Research Methods

teaching resources for A-level sociology AQA focus 2020

I’ve just released the latest research methods teaching resources for sale as part of my sociology teaching resources subscription package, available for only £9.99 a month!

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Research Methods teaching resources

The November download includes the following lesson materials:

  1. Unstructured interviews            
  2. Participant Observation lesson
  3. Participant observation lesson 2         
  4. Non-Participant observation     
  5. Official Statistics
  6. Cross National Comparisons
  7. Secondary Qualitative data      
  8. Content analysis
  9. Bringing it all together: stages of the research process

NB the October release contained all of the preceding methods (intro, surveys and experiments) and the next release in December will include Methods in Context material – the monthly subscription will give you access to all the methods material, and all material to date (education and families and households), so that’s almost the entire first year of A-level sociology teaching!)

Resources in the bundle include:

  • 5 workbooks covering  the methods above
  • 5 Power Points covering most of the above lessons
  • 9 lesson plans covering all of the above lessons.
  • Various supplementary hand-outs for some of the above lessons as necessary.

Fully modifiable resources

Every teacher likes to make resources their own by adding some things in and cutting other things out – and you can do this with both the work pack and the PowerPoints because I’m selling them in Word and PPT, rather than as PDFs, so you can modify them!

NB – I have had to remove most the pictures I use personally, for copyright reasons, but I’m sure you can find your own to fit in. It’s obvious where I’ve taken them out!

More resources to come…

I’m making resources available every month as part of this teacher resource subscription package. The schedule of release of resources is as below:

  • March – June 2020 – Education Resources
  • July – September 2020 – Research Methods, including methods applied to education 
  • October – December 2020 – Families and Households
  • January – April 2021 – Global Development 
  • May – August 2021 – Crime and Deviance 
  • September – October 2021 – Theory and Methods 
  • November 2021 – January 2022 – Revision Material
  • February 2022 – Intro material. 

Researching in Classrooms

The classic method for researching in classrooms is non-participant observation, the method used by OFSTED inspectors. However, there are other methods available to the researcher who wishes to conduct research on actual lessons within schools.

Classrooms are closed environments with very clear rules of behaviour and typically containing around 20-30 students, one teacher and maybe one learning assistant, and lessons usually lasting from 40 minutes to an hour.

The obvious choice of research method for using in a classroom is that of non-participant observation, where the researcher takes on the role of the OFSTED inspector.

The fact that there are so many students in one place, and potentially hundreds of micro-interactions in even just a 40-minute lesson gives the observational researcher plenty to focus on, so classrooms are perhaps some of the most data rich environments within education.

Arguably the most useful way of collecting observational data would be for the researcher to have an idea about what they are looking for in advance – possibly how many times teachers praise which pupils, or how many times disruptive behaviour takes place, and how the teacher responds, rather than trying to watch everything, which would be difficult.

And students will probably be used to OFSTED inspections, or other staff in the school dropping in to observe lessons occasionally, thus it should be relatively easy for a researcher to blend into the background and observe without being too obtrusive.

The fact that classrooms are usually organised in a standardised way (they tend to be similar sizes, with only a few possible variations on desk layouts) also means the researcher has a good basis for reliability – any differences he observes in teacher or student behaviour across classrooms or schools is probably because of the teachers or pupils themselves, not differences in the environments they are in (at least to an extent!).

There are, however, some limitations with researching in classrooms.

Gaining access could be a problem – not all teachers are going to be willing to have a researcher observing them. They may regard their classroom as their environment and think they have little to gain from an outsider observing them – although if a researcher is a teacher themselves, they could maybe offer some useful feedback about teaching strategies applied by teachers.

Teachers will probably act differently when observed – if you think back to OFSTED inspections, teachers usually ‘up their game’ and make sure to be more inclusive and encouraging, this is likely to happen when anyone observes.

Similarly, pupils may behave differently – they may be more reluctant to contribute because of a researcher being present, or disruptive students may act up even more.

Classrooms are very unique, controlled environments, with only two roles (teachers and students) and clear norms. Teachers and students alike will not be themselves in these highly unusual situations.

Finally, researchers wouldn’t be able to dig deeper and ask probing questions when part of a lesson, unless they took on the role of participant observer by becoming an learning assistant, but even then they would be limited to what they could ask if they didn’t want to disrupt the lesson flow.

It’s not all about direct non-participant observation

Researchers might choose a more participatory approach to researching in classrooms, by training to be a learning assistant or even a teacher, and doing much longer term, unstructured observational research with students.

This would enable them to get to really know the students within a lesson, and make it very easy to to ask deeper questions outside of lessons.

The problem with this would be that they would then be part of the educational establishment and students may not wish to open up to them precisely because of that reason.

A further option would be to put up cameras and observe from a distance, but this might come up against some resistance from both teachers and students, and it would be more difficult to ask follow up questions if reviewing the recordings some time after the actual lesson took place.

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Balloon Modelling Starter for A-level Sociology

Here’s a starter I use for my ‘sociology before Christmas break’ lesson. The aim of the starter activity is for each student to be able to make their own sausage dog or giraffe balloon animal – they’re essentially both the same, one just has a long neck, the other a long body!

You’ll probably want to make a few of these yourself before hand, to get familiar with the process!

Resources required

  • Enough animal modelling balloons, one for each student, plus a few more in case any get popped.
  • At least one manual balloon pump – these balloons are tough to blow up with your mouth!
  • An instruction video on how to make a balloon animal.

Activity instructions

If you’re short on time, then inflate the balloons yourself first of all. If you don’t have time, you’ll have to get students to inflate them, in which case it might be an idea to invest in two balloon pumps.

NB they can be quite difficult to tie.

You need to make sure you leave around two-three inches of un-inflated space at the end!

Once students have their balloons, you can play the video, or model the process yourself, pausing as necessary.

This video works nicely…

End result

Students should have their own balloon animal to take away for Xmas.

Extension work

There’s lots of more complex stuff students can make with balloons, I’m sure they’re capable of finding their way to instructional web sites and videos out there!

Relevance to A-level sociology

I’ve got half an idea that you could make this relevant to experiments somehow – what is the effect of doing this task on concentration? Or something like that? Why do some people choose Giraffes, and others choose sausage dogs?

You could get the students to analyse the sociological significance of balloon giraffes according to different sociologists/ perspectives – what would Foucault make of them, for example? (D’you know, I’ve no idea!)

Or maybe ask the students if they can think of any concepts the process of making a balloon giraffe – anomie maybe?

But TBH, it’s just a bit of fun before Xmas, and once you’ve done the balloon animal things, you can get on with your end of term socrative quiz or Xmas songs.

I’m something of a traditionalist, I believe the lesson before Xmas should consist of nothing constructive, for once!

Sociological Perspectives on the 2020 Exam results fiasco

What a mess this years exam results were!

First of all students get awarded their results based primarily on an algorithm, which adjusted center predicted grades up or down depending on how their historical results records.

Then those results were scrapped in favour of the original teacher predicted grades, awarded several months ago, unless the algorithm grade was better!

And finally, amidst all that chaos, BTEC students just get forgotten about with the publication of their results being delayed.

Unfortunately there isn’t a ‘total balls up’ perspective in Sociology, as that would most definitely be the best fit to explain what occurred, and I’m not sure that any one perspective can really explain what’s going on, but there some concepts we can apply….

Marxism

A basic tenet of Marxism applied to education is that the education system tends to benefit the middle classes more than the working classes, and especially the 7% of privately schooled kids compared to other 93% who are educated in state school.s

The algorithm which was used to adjust teacher predicted grades benefitted those from higher class backgrounds more than from lower class backgrounds.

You’ll need to follow the Twitter threads below for the evidence…

The Power of Popular Protest

However, students protested…..

And as we all know, the algorithm was overturned, and we ended up with teacher predicted grades being the basis for results (unless the algorithm gave students a better result of course!).

So in this case the system did try to to screw the working classes, but popular protest managed a small victory.

NB – it’s worth pointing out that Independently schooled kids probably still have better results on average than working class kids, so while this may feel like a victory, it’s maybe no big deal really?

Labelling Theory

I think there’s an interesting application here in relation to teacher predicted grades – clearly teachers have exaggerated these as much as they can, because the results on average are nearly a grade up compared to last year – which is a great example of teachers positively labelling their students in terms of giving them the highest grades they might have achieved.

It kind of shows you that, at the end of the day, teachers are more positive about their students than negative.

For one year only, we’ve got results based on labels, the projections in teachers’ heads rather than being based on objectively measured performance. In some cases over the next year we are going to see the limitations of labelling theory – just because a teacher says someone is capable of getting 5 good GCSEs doesn’t mean they are going to be able to cope with A levels rather than BTECs at college.

Keep in mind that some of the teacher predicted rates are going to be utter fantasy, and not every case is going to end up in a self-fulfilling prophecy – there are going to be a lot of failures at A-level as thousands of over-predicted students can’t cope.

Probably less so at universities – they need the money from tuition fees, so they’ll probably just lower their standards for this cohort.

Functionalism

You may think that this has no relevance, HOWEVER, the system hasn’t collapsed, has it?

There was a bit of a blip, a few people got upset and protested, and now this year’s students have ended up with much better results than last year’s students based on teacher predicted grades which are clearly about as exaggerated as they can get away with.

And now we’re all heading back to college and university and things are going to go back to the ‘new normal’, without anything very much changing, despite the fact that so many flaws have been revealed in how the exam system works.

I’d say this whole fiasco has been a pretty good example of a system coping well with a crisis and coming out the other side relatively unscathed.

Postmodernism and Late Modernism

The extent to which these apply is a bit of a mixed bag….

The government certainly showed a high degree of uncertainty about how to award results, resulting in wide spread chaos, which certainly seems to fit in which the postmodern perspective.

However, that’s about as far as it goes I think…. students and parents alike showed an utter contempt for being ruled by an algorithim, which is one of the primary mechanisms of social control in post/ late modern societies (via actuaralism) – and yet when its workings are brought to light, people resisted – they wanted justice and meritocracy rather than this bizarre way of managing selves.

Also the fact that people actually seem to care about their results and want a sense of justice isn’t really postmodern – it’s a very modernist concern, to be interested in one’s education and future career, and I get the feeling that rather than kicking back and enjoying their postmodern leisure time, students have just been generally worried about their results and their future.

So there’s been a high level of uncertainty and fear/ worry, that’s quite postmodern, but the fact that people actually care about education, that’s more modernist….

Sociological Experiments

This post aims to provide some examples to some of the more unusual and interesting experiments that students can explore and evaluate.

I’ve already done a post on ‘seven field experiments‘, that outline seven of the most interesting classic and contemporary experiments which are relevant to various topics within the A-level sociology syllabus, in this post I provide a much fuller list, and try to present some more unusual examples, focusing on contemporary examples with video examples where possible.

The Circle

Channel Four’s ‘The Circle’ is an experiment of sorts – contestants have to stay in one room and can only interact with each other by a bespoke, in-house social media application, competing for popularity. At the end of every day the two-three most popular people get to kick out someone from the least three popular people, then a newbie comes in to replace them.

The Twinstitute

This recent series which aired on BBC2 involves getting identical twins to do the same tasks under different circumstances – to see what the effect of ‘external stimuli’ (independent variables) are on factors such as ‘concentration’.

In one classic, and super easy to relate to example, sets of twins are asked to do a written IQ test – one half are allowed to keep their mobile phones on the table, another have to put them away – all other variables remain the same. The findings are predictable – the group with their phones out get worse scores.

Conclusion – mobile phones are distracting, quite a useful fact to remind students of!

Sleep deprivation makes people less likely to want to socialise with you!

A 2017 experiment measured how respondents perceived tired people. The findings were that respondents were less likely to want to socialise with sleep-deprived people.

  • 25 Participants (aged 18-47) were photographed after normal sleep and again after two days of sleep deprivation.
  • The two photographs were then rated by 122 raters (aged 18-65), according to how much they would like to socialise with the participants. The raters also rated the photos based on attractiveness, health, sleepiness and trustworthiness.
  • The raters were less likely to want to socialise with the participants in the ‘sleep-deprived’ photos  compared to the photos of them when they’d had normal sleep. They also perceived the ‘sleep-deprived’ versions as less attractive, less health and more sleepy.
  • There was no difference in the trustworthiness ratings.

You have to think about this to get to what the variables are:

  • The main dependent variable is the raters’ ‘desire to socialise’ with the people in the photos.
  • The independent variable is the ‘level of sleep-deprivation’ (measured by photos)  

What I like about this experiment is the clear ‘control measure’ – the researchers used photos of the same participants – after regular sleep and sleep-deprivation.

Without that control measure, the experiment would probably fall apart1

Science Professors think female applicants are less competent

In this 2012 experiment researchers sent 127 science professors around the country (both male and female) the exact same application materials from a made-up undergraduate student applying for a lab manager position.

63 of the fake applications were made by a male, named John; the other 64 were made by a female, named Jennifer.

Every other element of the applications were identical.

The researchers also matched the two groups of professors to whom the applications were sent, in terms of age distribution, scientific fields, and tenure status.

The 127 professors were each asked to evaluate the application based on

  • their overall competency and hireability,
  • the salary they would offer to the student
  • the degree of mentoring they felt the student deserved.

The faculty were not told the purpose of the experiment, just that their feedback would be shared with the student.

The results

Both male and female professors consistently regarded the female student applicant as less competent and less hireable than the otherwise identical male student:

  • The average competency rating for the male applicant was 4.05, compared to 3.33 for the female applicant.
  • The average salary offered to the female was $26,507.94, while the male was offered $30,238.10.
  • The professor’s age and sex had insignificant effects on discrimination —old and young, male, and female alike tended to view the female applicants more negatively.

Blind auditions improve the chances of female musicians being recruited to orchestras

A comparative study by Cecilia Rouse, an associate professor in Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School and Claudia Goldin, a professor of economics at Harvard University, seems to confirm the existence of sex-biased hiring by major symphony orchestras.

Traditionally, women have been underrepresented in American and European orchestras. Renowned conductors have asserted that female musicians have “smaller techniques,” are more temperamental and are simply unsuitable for orchestras, and some European orchestras do not hire women at all.

To overcome bias, most major U.S. orchestras implemented blind auditions in the 1970s to 1980s, in which musicians audition behind a screen that conceals their identities but does not alter sound. However, some kept non-blind auditions.

This provided the context for a nice ‘natural experiment’…

Using data from the audition records, the researchers found that:

  • – for both blind and non-blind auditions, about 28.6 percent of female musicians and 20.2 percent of male musicians advanced from the preliminary to the final round.
  • – When preliminary auditions were not blind, only 19.3 percent of the women advanced, along with 22.5 percent of the men.

The researchers calculated that blind auditions increased the probability that a woman would advance from preliminary rounds by 50 percent.

As a result, blind auditions have had a significant impact on the face of symphony orchestras. About 10 percent of orchestra members were female around 1970, compared to about 35 percent in the mid-1990s.

Rouse and Goldin attribute about 30 percent of this gain to the advent of blind auditions.

Their report was published in the September-November issue of the American Economic Review.

The Marshmallow Test

This classic 1971 experiment was designed to measure a child’s level of self-control, or will-power. In sociological terms, this is measuring a child’s ability to ‘defer gratification’.

Researchers put a child in a room with one Marshmallow. The child was informed that they could eat it whenever they wanted, but if they could wait until the researcher returned, they could have two Marshmallows.

The researcher then left and the child was left alone to deal with their temptation for approximately 15 minutes. In the end 2/3rds of children gave into temptation and ate the Marshmallow, the other third resisted.

The researchers then tracked the children through later life and found that those who had more will power/ self control (those who hadn’t eaten the treat) were more likely to do well at school, avoid obesity and generally had a better quality of life.

NB – it’s down to you to do your research on how replicable and valid this experiment is.

Here’s one of the original researchers in 2015 saying how they’ve evolved and replicated the experiment and he’s written a book on the importance of teaching self-control to enhance people’s quality of life:

On the other hand, this is a video which is critical, saying that future studies found that social economic background accounted for around half of life-success, with individual will-power only accounting for half.

(However, this second video appears to be one young guy with no academic credentials, other than the lame bookshelf he’s put in the background, hardly semiotics genius.)

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Starters for A-level Sociology

A few of my favourite starters for A-level Sociology Lessons:

Draw Society

While the drawing task may seem a little juvenile, it is typically quite revealing – you usually get a mixture of pictures which show harmony and conflict/ division and some which are ‘whole society’, while others more individualised, but most of them tend to illustrate on the various different perspectives.

This is my very first task in the introduction to sociology unit.

After basic housekeeping, handing out the introductory hand-outs, and a quick discussion about ‘what does the word sociology mean to you?’ I then ask students to ‘draw society’.

I issue students with mini Whiteboards (but paper and pens would work) and simply give them the following instruction (which is on a PPT, and written in the main hand-out)

It takes 5-10 minutes, no more than 10. I then invite students to show and explain their pictures – and then do a quick PPT on perspectives in sociology, using the pictures to illustrate the Perspectives.

NB the reason for quickly introducing the perspectives in Lesson one is to remind students this is a difficult subject, not just about discussing social issues, which is an all too common misconception.

Find someone who Bingo

This icebreaker works a treat: it consists of 20 ‘activities’, 5 of which hardly anyone is going to admit to because they are ‘too deviant’ and people have been socialised into NOT doing them.

The instruction box below is embedded into my main intro hand-out, and on the PPT I use for the lesson:

Intro task – Find someone who bingo   Using the sheets provided, stand up, circulate, and try to match at least one name to each of the actions on your bingo sheet. First one to complete three lines of completely different names (no repeats) and shout bingo wins a chocolate bar, if they can identify the people whose names they’ve put down.   NB – Yes, it’s an icebreaker, but also relevant to the content of today’s lesson!

This activity is also handy to get students talking to one another for the first time – I let it run until the point where you get a large group of students giggling which each other while at the same time a couple of them are starting to look a bit lost, then it’s time to bring it back together – lasts about 5-10 minutes!

Follow up

Ask students if they’ve got any gaps, and if so why…. This introduces the concept of deviance.

When do you want to get married? Marriage and Divorce starter

Students answer the questions below on Socrative. Link to the quiz here.

Intro task – answer the following questions

•           Do you want to get married?

•           If you want to get married, then why, if not, then why not?

•           At what age do you expect to get married?

•           Note down 3-5 words you associated with marriage.

Follow Up

Use Socrative to show the class trends, you can compare these to some of the historical trends as they come up in the lesson.

You can ask students how common they think the answers to the qualitative questions are or ask for volunteers to explain their answers. If no one volunteers, ask ‘why might someone has said this’, just be careful to remind students to be sensitive!

Match the crime to the trend

Hand out the ‘intro to crime trends’ supplementary sheet, this only shows the trends, project up the PPT slide which shows the trends and the ‘crime’s they need to match.

  • Students then match the crime to the trend
  • Show students the answers – on the PPT, see bundle below.
  • Get students to rank the crimes in order of how valid they think the statistics are.

Follow Up

You might want to point out that more serious crime is very low, but some of the ‘softer’ crimes have much higher rates.

You should point out that ‘crime stats are socially constructed’ and that there are several reasons why some of these crimes might go unreported.

20 Starters for A-level Sociology

All of the above resources are available in my latest teaching bundle which contains 20 starter activities for A-level sociology lessons. There are five starter activities for ‘introducing sociology’, three for education, two for methods, five for families and five for crime and deviance.

The activities are quite varied, and include a mixture of the following:

  • Drawing concepts
  • A Walk-about and finding out from other students’ activity
  • Brainstorming reasons why/ differences between.
  • A Making the links dice game
  • ‘What do you think’ personal Socrative intro questions.
  • One musical intro
  • Key terms recaps
  • Applying perspectives starters.
  • Classic data response
  • Classic ‘quick recap tests’

I’ve used all of these activities in my own teaching, they are tried and tested and work well with classes of 10-20 or more students.

Over page is an index of all the activities and (in brackets) when in the specification you can employ them.

Most of these activities are paper based, and where this is the case, I’ve included a copy of the ‘worksheet’ here, as well as individual files in a separate folder, clearly labelled.

Some of the activities require a PPT so I’ve included the relevant slides on a separate PPT.

A-Level Sociology Teaching Resources

NB – you get All of these starters and more as part of my A-level sociology teaching resources, available as a monthly subscription, for only £9.99 a month! The subscription includes lesson plans and modifiable student hand-outs and PPTs. Activities such as these starters are embedded into the student learning materials.

I hope you find these resources useful, and happy teaching,

Karl, September 2020.