My name is Katya Pudar and I’m the course leader for Sociology A Level. I’m looking forward to meeting you in person in September, but before you formally enrol onto the course, we’d like you to spend some time over the coming months to complete a series of tasks and activities.
Many of you will be new to Sociology as a subject so it’s really important you’re fully prepared before you start the A Level course. The activities below are a great way to find out more about what’s involved in studying Sociology, so please work your way through them and be prepared to discuss what you’ve learnt when we meet in September.
All of the tasks should be completed by Choices Day on 25 August. We hope you enjoy finding out more about Sociology!
The tasks will be released here in three phases:
Explore your Subject – 4 May
Welcome to your first
set of Sociology tasks.
As studying Sociology
will be new to most of you, please start off by watching the ‘Crash Course in
Sociology’ on the following Youtube link:
introduce you to some of the things we study on the A Level course.
Understanding social class
One of the
topics we investigate in Sociology is social class. We look at the wealth gap
in Britain, as well as the global wealth gap and explore how and why the class
divide has grown since the 1970s and how this impacts on the life chances of
some of the questions we address:
How does social class impact on life chances?
How much social mobility is there in Britain?
(Is it easy to move up the social class ladder?)
What are the barriers that might prevent
working-class young people from succeeding?
Have a look
at the first thirty minutes of the BBC documentary ‘Who Gets the Best Jobs’.
This explores the education divide and growing wealth gap.
is a subject that requires in-depth analysis. To be successful, you need to be
able to look at data, as well as detailed explanations and ideas and to write
essays using that information. It’s also an expectation that you can take ideas
from different opposing theories and then apply evidence to them and argue the
case for or against particular theories.
Read the following
BBC article and think about what this suggests about the class divide.
When you study A Level Sociology, you will need
to have a good understanding of data and consider the social causes of various
explore data and try to gain an insight into why particular trends change over
time, such as the growing wealth gap. There are a whole range of reasons for
this, including historical wealth gaps, government policies and changes to the
the below podcast and write down the various explanations given for the growing
you’ve enjoyed this introduction to Sociology. More tasks will be released on 1
You should complete this section of tasks by 1 June.
Get Going – 1 June
You should aim to complete this section of tasks by 1
What do you know about British Society?
For this activity I’d
like you to think about how much you know about British society.
TASK 1: Read
the below questions and have a guess as to what you think the answers might be.
(Please write your answers on a piece of paper as you’ll need to refer to them
later.) The questions all relate to various modules on the A Level Sociology course.
What is the population
of the United Kingdom?
What percentage of
marriage ends in divorce in the UK?
What percentage of
children achieved five GCSEs grades A-C last year?
Is the crime rate in
Britain going up or down?
In 1993 there were
roughly 45,000 people in jail; what is the prison population today?
The world population
is approximately seven billion (7,000,000,000); of these, how many are
malnourished and how many are obese?
In 2010 global
military expenditure was more than $1 trillion dollars ($1000 billion dollars).
How much did the developed world spend on aid to developing countries?
Now use the internet
to look up the actual answers, and write them down next to your answers. (When
you’re searching online, make sure you type in ‘UK’ for some of the questions
to narrow down the search.)
Introducing Structural and Action theories
Sociology is the study of the relationship between society and individual social action. Given that ‘society’ is complex and multi-layered, you’ll need to be able to view society and social action through a number of different sociological perspectives, or lenses, because different sociologists (and different people in general) look at the same society and see different realities.
For example, consider a busy street
such as in the image above, and imagine different people looking at that same
street: a shopkeeper, a thief and a consumer. The shopkeeper sees profit, the
thief victims and the consumer sees products to buy.
Sociology consists of various
different perspectives, all of which look at society in different ways. All
sociological perspectives have something valuable to contribute to our
understanding of society and no one perspective is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It’s up
to you, as an individual student, to present positive and negative criticisms
of sociological perspectives throughout the course.
Social Structure versus Social Action perspectives
Some sociologists, known as structural theorists, emphasise the
importance of institutions such as the media, education system and religion in
providing social stability and regulating the behaviour of individuals. They
argue that such institutions form a structure that shapes human action and
makes it predictable.
Other sociologists, known as social-action theorists, argue that
individuals have more freedom than structural and that society is more fluid,
less predictable and that it is best characterised as a system made up of
billions of interactions at an individual level.
TASK 2: For this task, I’d like you to draw society! Take a pencil/pen and paper and take ten minutes or so to draw society. Don’t rush; think about what society is made up of. You might draw people and individual experiences, or focus more on structures and hierarchies.
Once you’ve done that,
write a brief summary explaining what you drew and why you felt it was
significant. Think about what you think society looks like. How people are
treated differently based on their characteristics? Is it fair, equal and just?
Exploring Social Structure – Class, Gender and Ethnicity
Some structural theorists argue
that people’s life chances are shaped to a very large extent by their social
class and ethnic background, as well as by their gender. Even beyond the
family, our chances of succeeding in education, getting a good job and even of
living to a ripe old age are fundamentally affected by these three factors.
To take just one example, the recent
statistics on educational achievement by social class and genderdemonstrate how social life is
patterned by class background and gender.
TASK 3: Look at the graph below and think about what it suggests about inequality in educational achievement. Then answer the questions beneath, considering why girls may outperform boys in school and how poverty might impact on educational achievement. This should get you thinking a bit about stratification and differences in life chances.
Why might boys do worse than
girls in education?
Why might poorer
pupils do worse in education?
Social Structure and Social Action in Research
Understanding why boys do worse than
girls in school and why poor kids do worse than rich kids (NB those are Michael
Gove’s words not mine!) requires both ‘big scale’ research and ‘micro-level
Some research is quantitative in nature, based on samples of thousands of children and parents, which enables us to see which are the most common factors associated with educational success and failure.
Other research is more in depth, and
looks at how boys and girls experience education differently on a day-to-day
basis. Such research may involve following a handful of children through their
educational careers and ‘getting into their shoes’, trying to understand how
they see their lives and education, and why some of them drift away from
education and end up failing.
Ultimately we need both approaches
to really understand society and social action.
The above tasks will
have introduced you to some of the topics you’ll be learning about in the A
Level course. I hope you’ve found them interesting so far!
Aim High – 1 July
From 1 July
Once you’ve taken part in the College’s first ever Virtual Introductory Day on 30 June, you will be asked to complete a more formal Aim High task (posted here) that it is mandatory for all new students to complete before Choices Day on 25 August.