Sociology g. Rosie September 2009 gce sociology a level (aqa)

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G. Rosie

September 2009

This GCE Sociology specification has been designed so that candidates will acquire the essential knowledge and understanding of central aspects of sociological thought and methods, together with the application of a range of skills. It has also been designed to allow the integration of sociological themes, such as socialisation, culture and identity, and social differentiation, power and stratification.
The specification provides a smooth transition from GCSE Sociology, although this is not a prerequisite for studying AS/A Level Sociology. Candidates who have Grade C in English Language or similar attainment at Key Stage 4 will find that those skills will suitably equip them for the study of this specification. However, no prior learning is necessary for candidates to undertake a course of study based on this specification and those candidates returning to study, as part of their lifelong learning, will need no previous attainment in this subject.
The specification lays an appropriate foundation for further study of Sociology and related subjects in higher education. In addition, it provides a worthwhile course for candidates of various ages and from diverse backgrounds in terms of general education and lifelong learning. Equally, material studied would be useful for candidates intending to pursue careers in the field of Social Sciences.

Teachers: G. Rosie (AS Family, A2 Mass Media, Theory & Methods);

D. Wellings (AS Education and Methods, A2 Crime & Deviance)

AS and A Level courses based on this specification should encourage candidates to:
• acquire knowledge and a critical understanding of contemporary social processes and social changes
• appreciate the significance of theoretical and conceptual issues in sociological debate
• understand and evaluate sociological methodology and a range of research methods through active involvement in the research process
• develop skills that enable individuals to focus on their personal identity, roles and responsibilities within society
• develop a lifelong interest in social issues.
There should be a focus on contemporary society.
Studying sociology should:
• foster the development of critical and reflective thinking with a respect for social diversity
• provide an awareness of the importance of social structure and social action in explaining social issues
• provide candidates with an awareness of social structure and social action which emphasises different interpretations of social experiences.
Where appropriate, comparative and/or historical materials may be introduced. Students should be encouraged to develop their own sociological

awareness through active engagement with the contemporary social world.

In addition, A Level specifications in Sociology should enable candidates to demonstrate:
• a wider range and greater depth of knowledge and understanding than at AS
• more highly developed skills of application, analysis, interpretation and evaluation than at AS.
AS (1191)
Students sit two written examinations.
Unit 1: students answer one question on chosen topic, consisting of five parts (1 hour, 60 marks, 40% of AS).
Unit 2: students answer one question on chosen topic, one on sociological research methods in context, and one on research methods (2 hours, 90 marks, 60% of AS).

Term 1

Families and Households (Unit 1- SCLY1)
1 Changing patterns of marriage, cohabitation, separation, divorce, child-bearing and the life-course, and the diversity of contemporary family and household structures

  • Marriage: fall in number of marriages, later age of first marriage.

  • Cohabitation: growth of cohabitation, greater acceptability of cohabitation, types (eg trial marriage, long term partnership).

  • Separation and divorce: legal position, increase in divorce after 1969, reasons for divorce; remarriages and reconstituted families.

  • Child-bearing: number of children, age at which women have first child, changes in parenting practices; lone parent families; beanpole families.

  • Life course: consideration of range of possibilities, including living alone

(singletons), grandparents.
2 The relationship of the family to the social structure and social change, with particular reference to the economy and to state policies

  • Functionalist views: the importance of the nuclear family, the universality of the family, changing functions, how the nuclear family ‘fits’ modern society.

  • Marxist views: the family as part of the ideological state apparatus, as an agent of social control.

  • Feminist views: patriarchy; liberal, radical and Marxist feminism.

  • Foucault: surveillance of family life, internalisation of norms.

  • The New Right: decline of the family, demonisation of single parents, fatherless families, uncontrollable children; Murray’s view of the underclass; need for a return to ‘traditional’ family values.

  • Some key government policies affecting families, with more detail on the most recent (post-1997).

  • Post-1997 government policies assessed in relation to the theories.

  • Current policy positions of the main parties assessed in relation to the theories.

3 The nature and extent of changes within the family, with reference to gender roles, domestic labour and power relationships

  • Gender roles within families: functionalist, feminist, New Right and other views.

  • The domestic division of labour – changing nature of housework and home-related activities related to changing roles of men and women and to masculinity and femininity, both in and beyond the home.

  • Decision-making and power relations within households.

  • Consequences of unequal power: the ‘dark side of the family’, domestic violence, child abuse, mental illness.

4 The nature of childhood, and changes in the status of children in the family and society

  • The social construction of childhood: how childhood differs over time and between cultures; ways in which childhood is marked as separate from other stages of life.

  • Children and (paid) work: legal situation in UK; comparison with other countries.

  • Children as actors within families; the rights and responsibilities of children today.

5 Demographic trends in the UK since 1900; reasons for changes in birth rates, death rates and family size

  • For each of the three areas of change (birth rates, death rates and family size) students should be aware of the trend, of possible reasons for it and of some cross-cultural/global comparisons.

  • Birth rates (and fertility rates): falling - availability of contraception/family planning; children more likely to survive; cost of raising children; later age of marriage; women giving priority to work, etc.

  • Death rates: falling - higher life expectancy; better health care, protection and treatment for life threatening illness, etc.

  • Family size: falling - reasons similar to birth rate but focus on decisions on individual reasons.

Term 2

Education (Unit 2-SCLY2)
1 The role and purpose of education, including vocational education and training, in contemporary society

  • Functionalist and New Right views of the role and purpose of education: transmission of values, training workforce

  • Marxist and other conflict views of the role and purpose of education: social control, ideology, hegemony; ‘deschoolers’ (Illich, Friere): socialisation into conformity by coercion

  • Vocational education and training: the relationship between school and work: human capital, training schemes, correspondence theory.

2 Differential educational achievement of social groups by social class, gender and ethnicity in contemporary society

  • Statistics on educational achievement by class, gender and ethnicity; trends over time

  • Social class and educational achievement: home environment; cultural capital, material deprivation; language (Bernstein); school factors, relationship between achievement by class in education and social mobility

  • Gender and educational achievement: feminist accounts of gender-biased schooling; the concern over boys’ ‘underachievement’ and suggested reasons; subject choice; gender identities and schooling

  • Ethnicity and educational achievement: patterns; reasons for variations; multicultural and anti-racist education; experience of minorities in different types of schools

  • The relationship between class, gender and ethnicity

  • The effects of changes on differential achievement by social class, gender and ethnicity.

3 Relationships and processes within schools, with particular reference to

teacher/pupil relationships, pupil subcultures, the hidden curriculum, and the organisation of teaching and learning

  • School processes and the organisation of teaching and learning: school ethos; streaming and setting; mixed ability teaching; the curriculum; overt and hidden

  • The ‘ideal pupil’; labelling; self-fulfilling prophecy

  • School subcultures (eg as described by Willis, Mac an Ghaill) related to class, gender and ethnicity

  • Teachers and the teaching hierarchy; teaching styles

  • The curriculum, including student choice.

4 The significance of educational policies, including selection, comprehensivisation and marketisation, for an understanding of the structure, role, impact and experience of education

  • Independent schools

  • Selection; the tripartite system: reasons for its introduction, forms of selection, entrance exams

  • Comprehensivisation: reasons for its introduction, debates as to its success

  • Marketisation: the 1988 reforms – competition and choice; new types of schools (CTCs, academies, specialist schools, growth of faith schools)

  • Recent policies in relation to the curriculum, testing and exam reforms, league tables, selection, Special Educational Needs (SEN), etc

  • Recent policies and trends in pre-school education and higher education.

5 The application of sociological research methods to the study of education

  • Quantitative and qualitative data in education; the dominance of statistics (eg exam results, league tables)

  • Positivist and interpretivist approaches as applied to education

  • Issues, strengths and limitations and examples of the application to the study of education of the main sources of data studied (see Sociological Methods section):

  • questionnaires

  • interviews (formal/structured; informal/unstructured)

  • participant and non-participant observation

  • experiments

  • use of documents, official statistics and other secondary data

  • The theoretical, practical and ethical considerations influencing choice of topic, choice of method(s) and the conduct of research on education.

Term 3

AS Text: Haralambos & Yeo (ed.) Sociology in FocusAQA AS Level Causeway Press 2008 (2nd ed.)

A2 (2191)
Students sit two written examinations.
Unit 3: students answer two questions, one of which is compulsory, on their chosen topic (I hour 30 minutes, 60 marks, 20% of A level).
Unit 4: students answer one question on their chosen topic, one question on sociological research methods and one question on theory and methods (two hours, 90 marks, 305 of A level).

Term 1
Mass Media (SCLY3)
1 The relationship between ownership and control of the mass media

  • Private and state ownership; public service broadcasting; recent trends in ownership and control both in the UK and globally (eg concentration of ownership; global conglomerates)

  • Traditional Marxist, neo-Marxist and pluralist theories of ownership and control

  • The ideological role of the media.

2 The mass media, globalisation and popular culture

  • Globalisation: the media as a global industry (ownership, production and consumption); role of the media in creating a global culture; Americanisation and cultural homogenisation

  • Popular culture: the distinction between high and low culture; mass or popular culture, the dumbing down debate

  • Postmodernism and the media: the media become reality, simulacra, Baudrillard.

3 The processes of selection and presentation of the content of the news

  • Economic and structural factors influencing the selection and presentation of news, eg costs and need for profits, technology, competition

  • Political and cultural factors influencing the selection and presentation of news, eg censorship (direct and indirect, self-censorship); the social construction of news

  • News values and the role of gatekeepers; agenda setting and ideology

  • The impact of new media on the selection, presentation and control of the news

  • Moral panics.

4 Media representations of age, social class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and disability

  • The nature of representations; key terms used in discussing representations such as stereotype, under-representation, the gaze, binary oppositions, the other

  • Representation and power: representations as arising from the power of social groups with power in the media, negative representations of minority groups

  • Representations in relation to age, social class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and disability, with examples

  • Reasons for changes in representations over time.

5 The relationship between the mass media, media content and presentation, and audiences

  • Methodological problems in researching media effects

  • Strong media/weak audience theories of media effects, eg the hypodermic syringe model

  • Theories of limited media effects eg the two step

  • Weak media/strong audience theories eg uses and gratifications

  • Cultural effects theories; encoding and decoding; different readings of media texts; the work of the Glasgow Media Group

  • The debate about whether the media can cause violence.

6 The new media and their significance for an understanding of the role of the media in contemporary society

  • The development of new media, their range and importance: multi channel and digital television, mobile telephones, email, the Internet and Web 2.0, blogs and virtual realities

  • The effects of new media and new technologies on old media; convergence

  • Significance of new media for the changing relationship between audiences and the media and for the debates about ownership and control and about media effects.

Term 2

Crime and Deviance (SCLY4)
1 Different theories of crime, deviance, social order and social control

  • Different definitions of crime, deviance, social order and social control

  • The distinction between sociological theories of crime and other theories (eg biological, psychological); crime and deviance as socially constructed

  • Functionalist theories of crime: Durkheim, anomie, collective conscience; Merton’s strain theory; manifest and latent functions; functionalist subcultural theories

  • Marxist and neo-Marxist theories of crime: classical Marxism, laws reflecting class interests; Neo-Marxism, hegemony, the CCCS studies, critical and new criminology

  • Interactionist theories of crime: labelling theory, the self-fulfilling prophecy

  • Feminist theories of crime: patriarchy, male control of women’s lives

  • Control theory and other contemporary approaches to crime: social bonds, communitarianism, situational prevention; postmodern theories; Foucault on individualisation and surveillance

  • Realist theories: New Left Realism and Right Realism

  • The relevance of the various theories to understanding different types of crime, and their implications for social policy.

2 The social distribution of crime and deviance by age, ethnicity, gender, locality and social class, including recent patterns and trends in crime

  • Study of statistics and other evidence on the social distribution of crime by age, ethnicity, gender, locality and social class, including recent patterns and trends

  • Issues related to and explanations of the social distribution of crime and deviance by age: juvenile delinquency and youth crime

  • Issues related to and explanations of the social distribution of crime and deviance and ethnicity: explanations from different theories, racism in the criminal justice system

  • Issues related to and explanations of the social distribution of crime and deviance and gender: explanations of the rates of male and female crime, the gendering of crime, chivalry thesis, the gender deal

  • Issues related to and explanations of the social distribution of crime and deviance and locality: rural and urban crime

  • Issues related to and explanations of the social distribution of crime and deviance and social class: explanations from different theories; white collar crime; occupational crime.

3 Globalisation and crime in contemporary society; the mass media and crime; green crime; human rights and state crimes

  • Globalisation and crime: examples and explanations of globalised crimes such as web-based crimes, global trades in drugs, weapons and people; global corporate crime

  • Mass media and crime: media’s role in social construction of crime including moral panics and amplification; crime and news values and agenda setting; representations of crime (both fact and fiction)

  • Green crime: definitions, criminalisation of environmental offences; extent, enforcement of green crimes: environmental laws, corporate and state environmental crimes, crimes against non-human species

  • Human rights and state crimes: international rules and norms and examples of violations of them; human rights violations; state crimes.

4 Crime control, prevention and punishment, victims, and the role of the criminal justice system and other agencies

  • Crime control, prevention and punishment: contemporary policies, linked to the theories studied under point 1; surveillance, zero tolerance, anti-social behaviour orders, expansion of imprisonment

  • Victims of crime: statistics and other evidence on victims of crime; ethnicity, age and gender; different theoretical accounts, eg positivist and radical victimology

  • Role of the criminal justice system and other agencies.

5 The sociological study of suicide and its theoretical and methodological implications

  • Durkheim’s classic study of suicide, including typologies

  • Interpretivist responses to Durkheim, eg Atkinson, Douglas

  • Realist approaches, eg Taylor’s ‘people under trains’

  • The theoretical and methodological implications of the different approaches of the study of suicide.

6 The connections between sociological theory and methods and the study of crime and deviance

  • Quantitative and qualitative data in crime and deviance; the dominance of statistics (police statistics, BCS)

  • Positivist and interpretivist approaches, consensus and conflict approaches and structural and social action approaches as applied to crime and deviance

  • Issues, strengths and limitations and examples of the application to the study of crime and deviance of the main sources of data studied (see Theory and Methods section below):

o Questionnaires

o interviews (formal/structured; informal/unstructured)

o self-report and victimisation studies

o participant and non-participant observation

o experiments

o use of documents, official statistics and other secondary data

  • The theoretical, practical and ethical considerations influencing choice of topic, choice of method(s) and the conduct of research on stratification and differentiation, including issues of subjectivity, objectivity, value freedom, danger, ‘going native’

  • Subjectivity, objectivity and value freedom in the study of crime and deviance

  • The relationship between the sociological study of crime and deviance and social policy.

Theory and Methods
1 Quantitative and qualitative methods of research; their strengths and limitations; research design

  • The difference between quantitative and qualitative methods, primary and secondary methods and source, strengths and limitations, using concepts such as validity, reliability, representativeness

  • The main factors influencing research design

  • The research process: main stages.

2 Sources of data, including questionnaires, interviews, participant and non-participant observation, experiments, documents and official statistics; the strengths and limitations of these sources

  • Through a range of examples students should explore the strengths and limitations in different areas of sociological research of each of the named methods

  • This should include the types of questions asked, different types of interview and of observation, and the range of documentary and other secondary sources; the value of pilot studies; triangulation; ways of selecting samples.

3 The distinction between primary and secondary data and between quantitative and qualitative data

  • Primary and secondary data: difference, value of each to sociological research, ways of evaluating usefulness of secondary data

  • Quantitative and qualitative data: difference, value of each in sociological research, ways of presenting different types of data.

4 The relationship between positivism, interpretivism and sociological methods; the nature of ‘social facts’

  • The differences between the positivist and interpretivist approaches, related to choice of method and to issues such as validity, reliability and representativeness, quantitative and qualitative data

  • The nature of social facts: awareness of the relationship between the research process and social life.

5 The theoretical, practical and ethical considerations influencing choice of topic, choice of method(s) and the conduct of research

  • Theoretical considerations including the theoretical position of the researcher, issues of validity and reliability, the type of data required

  • Practical considerations including costs, time, access to respondents, sample size

  • Ethical considerations including the interests of researcher and respondents, the researcher’s responsibilities to all involved in the research process, the rights of respondents; issues of anonymity, confidentiality and disclosure. Study of the British Sociological Association’s ethical guidelines is recommended.

6 Consensus, conflict, structural and social action theories

  • Sociology as concerned with the problem of social order; consensus and conflict as broad differing approaches

  • Examples of consensus approaches, eg Parsons; examples of conflict approaches, eg Marx, Weber

  • Sociology as concerned with the problem of choice and determinism; structural and social action theories as broad differing approaches

  • Examples of structural theories, eg structural functionalism, Marx; examples of social action theories, eg symbolic interactionism; phenomenology; examples of approaches attempting to integrate the two sets of theories, eg Giddens’s structuration theory.

7 The concepts of modernity and post-modernity in relation to sociological theory

  • The distinction between modernity and post-modernity

  • Postmodern theorists, eg Lyotard, Baudrillard

  • Theorists of post-modernity, eg Harvey

  • Alternative modern theories, eg Giddens and high modernity.

8 The nature of science and the extent to which sociology can be regarded as scientific

  • Scientific methodology; accounts of the relationship between science and truth, eg Popper; the social context of science

  • The extent to which scientific methods can and should be applied in sociology

  • Differing accounts of how scientific sociology can and should be, eg Popper, Kuhn, realism.

9 The relationship between theory and methods

  • Deductive theory: the process of deduction and its implications for research methods, with examples

  • Inductive theory: the process of induction and its implications for research methods, with examples

  • Epistemological issues: positivism and interpretivism

  • Ontological issues: objectivism and social construction.

10 Debates about subjectivity, objectivity and value freedom

  • The relationship between debates about subjectivity, objectivity and value freedom and the debates about the nature of science and of the nature of sociology

  • The arguments and evidence for and against the view that sociology can or should be objective

  • The arguments and evidence for and against the view that sociology can be value free.

11 The relationship between sociology and social policy

  • The nature of social policies

  • The practice of social policy and of policy research; ‘applied sociology’; multi-disciplinary research

  • The relationship between social policy and sociological methods and theories, including the role of politics in sociology and issues of power in the research process.

Term 3

A2 text: Pilkington & Yeo Sociology in Focus for AQA A2 Level Causeway Press 2009 (2nd ed.)

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