At the start of last year, we posted a blog about the Why we post research project. This project involved a comparative study of how social media use varies around the world. The research inspired an impact study led by Tom McDonald (a researcher on the project) and Laura Pountney (an A Level sociology teacher and writer) producing resources and activities for teachers and students to use in the classroom.
The aim of this impact research was to explore stimulating ways to enable students to engage with the issues in Sociology A Level Component 3a, as well as being able to explore what it means to ‘be’ a sociological researcher. The project uses both the highly accessible project website and short films around which a teacher guide, student pack and teacher’s PowerPoint, all of which are free to download.
The resources produced are designed to specifically support the two questions raised in Component 3a: Globalisation and the Digital Social world. Firstly, what is the relationship between globalisation and digital forms of communication? Secondly, what is the impact of digital forms of communication in a global context?
There are also opportunities for students to develop their understanding of research methods through various activities which explore the ethnographic research methods used, as well as a consideration of the issues with operationalising concepts in this relatively new area of sociology.
The student and teacher resources have been designed with concepts and theories in mind. There are specific activities which focus on consolidating students’ knowledge of concepts as well as activities which are specifically designed to help students develop their higher-level skills of application and evaluation. The aim is to consider how, in social research, concepts, theories and research are operationalised and explored, giving students a chance to move away from textbook-based learning towards learning grounded in actual sociological work.
It is a good way for students to consider the global, comparative aspect of social media through exploring the small-scale meanings applied to the use of social media in different cultural contexts. This can give rise to some interesting discussions about the ways the students themselves use social media, by encouraging them to reflect on how their use contrasts with others.
These activities, which can be used by teachers with students or by students as individual independent work can directly support learning as well as revision for the exams. For example, in an exam question which asks students to consider the positive effects of social media in non-western societies, the Why We Post project has produced a range of quantitative data (in the form of graphs/infographics) as well as qualitative data in the form of short written accounts and videos which address both positive and negative effects of social media.
In India, for example, social media is regarded as a valued resource for learning, either to complement education or in place of it. Rather than presenting a list of positive and negative aspects of social media in various contexts, these resources require students themselves to assess and articulate the effects.
Another example might be in response to the question last summer which asks students about the possible effects of social media on gender equality. By exploring the discoveries on the Why We Post website, along with the short YouTube films, students can compare the liberating effects of social media, for example on women in Turkey, in comparison with other locations where conformity to hegemonic masculinity on social media may bring about various social constraints.
So far, over 25 schools and colleges in the UK and beyond have used our resources, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We have visited at least 6 schools and colleges and spoken to over 50 teachers about our resources. We have also publicised our work at the OCR forum.
Feedback suggests that most teachers are using the resources in the summer term of the first year of the course, either taught or given to students as an activity to complete independently. Some teachers only used parts of the resources due to time limitations, and other teachers appreciated the fact that they could adapt the resources to suit their students’ needs (though notably, many teachers used the resources without changing them).
Teachers report that they have also used the resources as part of their revision of component 3a, towards the end of the second year. Where we have visited students and spoken to them about the project, we have had really good feedback about the project and what it is really like to be a researcher. Some students have said it has really made them think about becoming a social researcher. Students particularly report that they enjoy the YouTube films, and say that it has really made them think about their own use of social media.
You can download all resources, free of charge, via the project website. We also welcome questions, thoughts and feedback (good and not so good!), so do please get in touch. You can contact us using the project homepage. There will also be a member of the research team at the next OCR Forum on 1h March 2019.
We recommend a range of teaching and learning resources are used in preparing learners for assessment for Sociology A Level– e.g. combining CPD exam feedback resources and resources (delivery guides and teacher guides) from our website in conjunction with past papers and examiner reports on Interchange and the specification along with our new candidate exemplars from June 2018 exams.
General information on the Sociology specification can be found on our website. For specific Sociology related queries contact the Sociology team at Sociology@ocr.org.uk.
If you have questions then submit your comments below. You can also sign up to subject updates and receive up-to-date email information about resources and support and follow us on Twitter @OCR_Sociology.
Laura Pountney - Sociology Teacher
Laura has been a Sociology and Anthropology teacher for over 15 years and is a senior examiner for Anthropology A Level. Laura has authored a number of Anthropology and Sociology textbooks and has collaborated on curriculum development. As well as this Laura runs teacher training events and is currently involved with research on the Impact of Social Media in Hong Kong and the UK. In her spare time, Laura loves spending time with her large family, travelling and doing as much sport as possible.