It’s sometimes difficult to think how best to teach those areas of sociology, often particular concepts or theory, that students can find trickier to learn. There are some great ideas out there though, whether it is using videos on YouTube or fun interactive games that get your students up and out of their seats! Importantly we want to be able to share these ideas and attending the BSA Teaching Group Conference on 8 July was the perfect opportunity to do that and meet with other A Level teachers.
I was very glad to attend the one day conference for teachers of Sociology, run by the Teacher Group of the British Sociological Association. I travelled from Birmingham in the morning and enjoyed my walk through Sheffield City Centre from the train station to Regent Street where I found the right part of the Sheffield University campus. (Many thanks to the kind gentleman selling the Big Issue outside Sheffield station who offered me help on directions).
Thinking about food consumption - sociologically
Professor Nick Fox started the first session presenting a summary of some qualitative research that he and his colleagues had carried out entitled "The micro-politics of obesity". It was interesting to hear this update on health which could be referenced during discussions on Component 2 Understanding Social Inequalities and also when teaching research methods. This was because Professor Fox shared some primary data in the form of sample responses to interview questions about their motivations regarding food and losing weight. This included adults’ accounts of food decision-making and practices. It showed for example, the bearing money – or the lack of it – had on food consumption.
Globalisation and the digital social world
A main focus of the day was to provide time for the A Level Sociology exam boards to present recent updates on their specifications. We had Helen Hemmings (OCR Sociology Subject Specialist) and senior OCR examiner Dawn Manns help us with new content and ideas for classroom discussions for the OCR course. It was good to be given a discussion task on the strengths and weaknesses of the digital social world: Facebook, Twitter etc. Helen and Dawn delivered an interactive and very useful session, closing with a video from the UCL Global Social Media Impact Study demonstrating that social media can reinforce traditional ways of life with a local Chilean community arranging and promoting local folk dances via social media.
I then delivered a session designed to act as a subject update for the Education option with an introductory activity using photographs taken around the world of classrooms and asking delegates to guess in which country they were taken. I then looked at cybercrime as a type of global organised crime within the Crime and Deviance option. I also suggested some studies that I use in relation to social media and surveillance, including Dhiraj Murthy (2012) who has written about the use of Twitter and how we present ourselves and Ringrose, Harvey, Gill and Livingstone (2013) on teen girls, sexual double standards and “sexting”. I was very pleased to get positive feedback on some of the resources and teaching ideas I shared with the other delegates, in particular flagging how pastoral care links can be made, with perhaps the creating of an anti-cyber bullying campaign for use in your school/college.
After lunch, we played the ‘Urinal Game’. This is an activity that could be used in lessons to teach theoretical concepts. The idea was to set up a picture of three urinals on a smart board, as if to create a typical scene in a Gentleman's toilet. Volunteers were asked to arrive at the urinals as if this was a real life situation. Helen from OCR was asked to enter the toilet and she promptly asked where the cubicle was! Essentially the game demonstrated how from the choices made, you can connect the decisions of the individual back to concepts such as structure and agency.
During the lunch break, it was great to be able to talk and gain updates from the exam board stands. It was also interesting to again have the opportunity to share teaching ideas – for example one teacher uses a video on YouTube of the opening ceremony from the 2012 Olympics to start a discussion on modernity and postmodernity.
Although the last speaker, Maddie Breeze, was unable to attend due to transport problems on her train journey, the BSA should be sending out the summary of her presentation concerning exciting research entitled. “Women's Roller Derby: Gender, Organization, and Ambivalence”. Looking forward to receiving that!
From me, a personal thanks to all presenters and attendees for the day. In particular, many thanks to Professor Nick Fox for hosting us at Sheffield University and for Gillian Rae at the BSA for her excellent work organising the day.
If you did miss out on the day, why not join other OCR teachers and join the OCR Sociology eCommunity. It’s another great way to share teaching ideas and activities!
Patrick Robinson - Teacher at Cadbury Sixth Form College and BSA Teaching Group Convenor
Patrick Robinson is a teacher of OCR’s A Level specification at Cadbury Sixth Form College and is a BSA Teaching Group Covenor. He is also co-editor of ‘The Sociology Teacher’ journal produced by the BSA Teaching Group which covers a wide range of areas and highlights contemporary issues frequently related to teaching GCSE and A Level Sociology.