Make room for a view

21st February 1997 at 00:00
UNDERSTANDING SOCIOLOGY 1: THEORY AND METHODS. Steve Taylor. Producer: Vinevideo.Pounds 38. Available from Vine Productions Limited, 28 Ailsa Road, Twickenham, Middlesex TW1 1QW

AND THERE'S SOCIOLOGY TOO British Sociological Association (BSA), Scotland Producer: Life's Rich Tapestry. Pounds 30. (institutions) Pounds 25. (private) Available from Paul Littlewood Sociology Department University of Glasgow Glasgow G12 8RT

THINK SOCIOLOGY: VOICES Laura Taggart Producer: Leeds University Television in association with Stanley Thornes. Pounds 37.50.

Available from Stanley Thornes Publishers, Cheltenham Gloucester GL50 1YW

Teachers of A-level sociology are faced with a greater choice of resourc-es than ever. On the one hand, the major publishing companies are keen to offer blockblusting texts in an attempt to emulate the success of Haralambos and Holborn, O'Donnell and Bilton. Heinemann, Stanley Thornes, Collins, Causeway, Longman, Nelson and Macmillan have all launched texts in the past 12 months or so, or are about to do so. On the other hand, smaller independent publishers such as Peter Langley's Connect publications and organisations such as the British Sociological Association and ATSS are promoting materials more closely linked to the process of teaching sociology in and beyond the classroom. These include videos, posters, resource packs and, just over the horizon, CD-Roms.

These more innovative materials may never underpin a course in the way the substantive text often does. But they enhance classroom delivery, taking sociology off the page and adding the excitement that even the best texts sometimes struggle to achieve.

Here video is the most accessible of the new wave, the technology is usually available and operable even by technophobes, such as the author of this review. Hours at the photocopier (the big problem with photocopiable packs) are not needed.

Teachers have long used television documentaries and news extracts to bring current events into the classroom. These three videos, however, expressly address the stuff of A-level syllabuses. They synthesise the key themes raised in the texts (and by the television documentaries) and clarify them for students and teachers alike.

Steve Taylor's Understanding Sociology 1: Theory and Methods is a lively and accessible introduction to, perhaps, sociology's most difficult area. Taylor leads the viewer from the grand theory of the founding fathers, through the emergence of interpretivism to the malaise that is post-modernism, addressing and outlining classics such as Durkheim's study of suicide along the way. The text carries useful subtitles at key points and is divided into short chunks that conclude with a cue to pause the tape before moving on to the next section. At the close, former AEB chief examiner Tony Lawson offers strategies that assist the student in tackling some of the most common questions. The accompanying teachers' booklet is far more than a set of notes. It provides a summary of the key issues, a glossary of complex terms, activities to prepare students before they view each section and exercises, simulations and references to follow.

And There's Sociology Too provides an excellent introduction to the discipline. Presented by Kate Donnelly, it begins by probing commonsense assumptions and moves on to reveal the experiences and career destinations of a set of sociology graduates. It considers the methods used by sociologists and the issues that concern them before concluding with practical applications for sociology in the workplace. Developed, with accom- panying notes, by Paul Littlewood at the University of Glasgow, the film supersedes his BSA video, So What's Sociology Anyway?, while retaining its strengths.

Laura Taggart's Think Sociology: Voices is the forerunner to Stanley Thornes's forthcoming A-level textbook, Think Sociology. It addresses the popular syllabus areas, health and crime and deviance, and provides a range of talking heads with explanations and perspectives on the issues raised. For example, a GP, an environmental health officer and community care "consumers" discuss health, and a city councillor, a lawyer, police officers and offenders consider crime. AEB examiners Bill Sugrue and Steve Harris provide focus by advising students on how they might prepare for examination questions in these areas. A teacher's booklet offers background notes on the contributors and supports a strong resource for A-level work. Complementary tapes for other parts of the syllabus would make a very useful set indeed.

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