Breadth and fresh air

24th February 1995 at 00:00
Sociology teaching handbook: practical activities for teaching and learning Project co-ordinator Chris Middleton, British Sociological Association, Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield,Sheffield S10 2TN Folder Pounds 22.50. Disc Pounds 35 Folder and Disc Pounds 55. 0 9522043 0 4

The Sociology Teaching Handbook is one resource that allows all of us who teach the social sciences to think afresh about our lessons, workshops and lectures. It offers a collection of more than 80 practical ideas from nearly 50 contributors that address such matters as classroom management, presentational techniques, experiential learning and research methodology.

These are packaged alongside a range of useful classroom exercises that span the range found on most sociology syllabuses and deal with matters such as course introduction and evaluation. Among particularly innovative offerings are titles such as "Stimulating the unwilling sociologist", "Encapsulating the research experience" and "Developing a supported self-study course", but those looking for the more conventional lesson plan will not be disappointed.

There are well-structured exercises, together with guidance notes and student materials, based on the content analysis of television news, the investigation of domestic violence against women, the writing of student life histories and the process of note-taking from journal articles.

Finally, a range of ethical guidelines that address issues such as racism and sexism provide the context within which students and teachers should seek to work.

Although it has been put together by a team established in higher education by the British Sociological Association, many of the exercises transfer easily to A-level and with mild adaptation, for instance in language level, will do so to other areas including GCSE. Indeed, its availability in a variety of disc formats enhances its flexibility.

The handbook's main strength is that by providing innovative ideas of other teachers it encourages our own adventure. As with the National Extension College's Sociology Resource Bank and the Association for the Teaching of the Social Sciences' Resources for Sociology collection, it promotes the very idea that classroom innovation can be rewarding and relatively painless.

All these publications will allow us to access a greater range of mat-erials in a greater variety of ways and thus breathe new life into debates that have sometimes become tired not because of their lack of relevance but because of our familiarity with them.

Tony Breslin is secretary of the Association for the Teaching of the Social Sciences (ATSS), head of social sciences at the School of St David and St Katharine, Haringey, and a senior examiner.

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