Have you ever attended a wedding and watched the faces of the near relatives, and wondered what sort of a marriage the couple would have — what influence the in-laws would have, how the housework would be distributed, where the household would be set up, etc?
Have you ever noticed the number of things you do without thinking — like wearing the right clothes, eating with the right implements, or talking in a particular way, and wondered why you feel it essential to behave in this way?
Have you ever thought about society as such and wondered why some should be poor and others rich, why some should be considered more important than others?
Have you ever joined in a demonstration against the authorities and felt the need to participate actively in the governing process?
If you have answered ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, you are going to enjoy learning about the various institutions that make up society, how they function and how they influence your life. You will find it interesting to see how different ‘classical’ thinkers have held different views about society and how there are different ways in which society can be studied.
This Introduction includes all the information that you need before you really start studying in earnest. It includes details of the syllabuses that you may be tackling and advice on how to work with this course.
There is no single study technique that is right for this course. Indeed, there are as many different ways of studying as there are learners. So you will have to find the methods which are right for you in your own personal situation. However, the following tips represent some of the best advice for the majority of ‘open’ learners.
Discipline is undoubtedly the key. You must set aside a specific period each day or definite times each week and stick to it! Don’t let yourself make excuses for not getting down to work. Set yourself definite targets — not just the date of your examination, but the date when you are going to submit your first assignment, and so on. Break your study up into small
Don’t just skip over the bits that don’t make sense to you. In a subject like Sociology, all the topics are closely linked together and if you don’t understand part of one lesson, it is going to affect your ability to study other lessons as well. So go over the difficult section until it begins to make sense. If the lesson materials are not clear to you, look at the way the same ideas are covered in your supplementary reading. If you’re still not sure, it should be possible for you to contact your tutor (by phone or post). Don’t be shy about doing that!
Don’t underestimate the amount of study that is need to gain the top grades. Simply memorising all the ideas in the lessons may not be enough. You should be studying even when you are not studying! Television, radio, newspapers and magazines give you a picture of how the world around you is changing and provide you with valuable up-to-date examples. So keep a look-out for programmes or articles which might be useful to your studies. Study the behaviour of those around you. What are the rules of conduct within your own family? Or within your place of work or education? Why and how do these patterns change? If you already have an enquiring and critical mind, you are well placed.
Study the syllabus. This will tell you not just what you need to study but what the underlying objectives are, why you are studying these things. A brief analysis of the syllabus is given below but we strongly advise you to get hold of the complete syllabus and work out which parts of the course will help you with which sections of the syllabus, and so on. Get hold of practice examination papers as well, if you can. These will show you what sort of questions you are likely to face and what sort of skills you will need to demonstrate.
Make full use of your tutor. He or she is paid to help you, after all! Take advantage of any opportunities for tutorials and other practical help. Make sure you submit all your Tutor- marked Assignments for marking. Your tutor will spend quite a bit of time on the marking so you should take full note of whatever comments you get. The comments are usually more important than the marks because they are designed to show you ways that you can improve.
Make notes. There are any number of ways of doing this and you will have to find the one that is best for you. Making notes is a way of getting things clear in your own mind. It helps you to remember the ideas and when you come to revision you should find that you have written down an effective summary of the key ideas. Never assume that you are going to remember something just because you have read it. Most people’s memories are not as good as that!
Do all the tests. Just because you think you understand something, you should not skip over the tests. They are there to reinforce the ideas and plant them firmly in you memory. A fuller description of the assessment structure of the course is given below.
Course Reading Material and other Resources
All of the vital material you need for this course is contained within the 22 lessons. However, you will find that your knowledge of the study of society is considerably broadened by carrying out some additional reading.
One text may cover your supplementary reading. It is:
Pauline Wilson: Collins Revision – GCSE Sociology for AQA
(Collins, 2010), (ISBN-13: 978-0007350599)
Although it is not compulsory, we strongly recommend that you buy or borrow this publication since it will amplify all the topics that we cover. It would certainly help you during your revision process. Working through some of the questions will help you prepare for your examination. There is also an answer book available.
Another text which would be very helpful indeed is this one: Pauline Wilson & Allan Kidd: Sociology GCSE for AQA (Collins;
You will also find these books to be valuable sources of information:
Jonathan Blundell: Active Sociology for GCSE (Longman) Ken Browne: An Introduction to Sociology (Polity)
M. Haralambos & F.K.E. Smith: Sociology: a New Approach
One easy way to buy supporting texts is through the OOL website (www.ool.co.uk). But, as indicated above, it is vital that you should also pay close attention to the world that you live in and cast a critical eye on what you see. Newspapers, magazines, television and radio all offer valuable up-to-date materials. Of course, some programmes and publications are better than others, so look out for the ones which focus on society today. Some newspapers carry special sections which discuss sociological questions in clear, everyday terms. The Guardian has a ‘Society’ supplement once a week, while the Sunday Times sometimes includes a supplement called ‘New Society’. Both of these are well worth studying.
These are your ‘secondary’ resources and you will find that they will serve a number of purposes. You will see that some if not most of the questions in your examination will require you to respond to ‘stimulus’ materials of various kinds. This means you must learn not to accept everything at face value.
Whenever you listen to a programme or read an article, you should try to work out the point of view of the writer or speaker behind it. What is that person’s perspective? Is it fair and unbiased? Is there another way of looking at the same data or information? The more critical you become the better you will do. Try to relate what you hear and read to the concepts and topics that you are studying so that you find concrete examples for abstract ideas.
The Arrangement of Lessons
1. What is Sociology? (1)
2. What is Sociology? (2)
3. The Family (1)
4. The Family (2)
Tutor-marked Assignment A
5. Education (1)
6. Education (2)
7. Stratification (1)
8. Stratification (2)
Tutor-marked Assignment B
9. The Welfare State
10. Poverty (1)
11. Poverty (2)
Tutor-marked Assignment C
12. Politics (1)
13. Politics (2)
Tutor-marked Assignment D
16. Population (1)
17. Population (2)
Tutor-marked Assignment E
19. Social Control
Tutor-marked Assignment F
21. How does the Mass Media influence us?
22. The Power of the Media
Tutor-marked Assignment G
Tutor-marked Assignment H (Practice Examination)
Supplement: Project Work
You will see from this that most of the key topics are divided between two lessons. Often the first provides a general introduction while the second looks at the situation in Britain today.
Self-Assessment Tests and Activities
The self-assessment tests are a crucial element in the course. You will find a number of these in every lesson. Usually, they consist of quite straightforward questions which test your memory and understanding of the material that you have just worked through. Often they will consist of one-word answers. But do not just skip over them. Check in the answers at the end of the lesson that you have got them right and, if you have not, it is a sure sign that you should go back over the preceding section until the point is clear.
The self-assessment tests are also designed as a useful revision aid. They are clearly ruled off from the main body of the lesson so when you come to a tutor-marked assignment or to your examination, you can go back over the self-assessment tests at a rapid pace. This will tell you what has stayed in your memory and what has drifted away. Keep going over these tests until you can get them all right because between them they contain just about all the essential ideas that you will need for your examination.
Some of the lessons also include ‘Activities’ sections. These are like the self-assessment tests except that they do not ask specific questions and there are no answers provided. They are designed to open out your thinking and to get you to observe what is going on around you. Sometimes they will suggest something practical that you can do, a little bit of research that would be useful. It is important that you do not neglect these hints and suggestions.
Finally, from time to time, you will find exercises to complete. These generally require you to look carefully at parts of the text. This will help to develop your analytical skills as well as drawing your attention to important information. Spend time on doing these exercises as carefully as possible as the skills you develop are directly relevant to your examination. Suggested answers are provided at the end of each lesson.
The Choice of Syllabus
All the GCSE Sociology syllabuses are similar because they are devised according to a set of “national criteria” laid down for all the boards to follow. So this course will be satisfactory whatever GCSE syllabus you attempt.
But the course focuses on the requirements of one syllabus in particular — syllabus 4190 set by the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA). This syllabus (or ‘specification’) is subject to change from year to year so be sure to keep a copy of the specification that applies to the correct examination year for you.
The AQA Examination
Within the 4190 specification, there are two choices for exams, as follows:
Sociology (Short Course) 4191
Unit 1: Studying Society; Education; Families (41901) Written Paper – 1 hour 30 mins 90 marks – 100% Candidates answer all questions in all three sections.
Sociology (Full Course) 4192
Unit 1: Studying Society; Education; Families (41901) Written Paper – 1 hour 30 mins 90 marks – 50% Candidates answer all questions in all three sections.