Continuing on (I seem to be continuing on a lot of subjects lately ~:-), with my refresher studies of sociology, here is more about sociological imagination~ mine and anothers.
Ref: Macken, D. (2000) Divided city. In K. McDonald’s (ed.) Pressing questions: Explorations in sociology, Issues Two. Sydney: Longman. pp. 3-5.
Whilst I understand that the content of this article is useful to the development of social imagination in undergraduates, I am wondering why a more up-to-date piece of literature is not being used~this article is 11 years old! Are Sydney suburbs still seeing a cultural divide between east and west? To the same degree? Is the eastern paradigm still questioned as to whether it is antagonistic or indifferent?
Macken writes of the gentrification of inner Sydney that has resulted in its poorer suburbs becoming populated by the ‘haves’ as the ‘have nots’ move to the west. In turn, there has become less need for the two poles to interact, as work, leisure and places for shopping or seeking medical care can be found in the outer suburbs as well as the city.
Macken highlights Raskall’s concerns about the attitudes of people who do not have opportunities to interact with others of a different social status. Clearly an ‘Us vs. Them’ worldview can develop into a deep cultural divide, and thus endanger the stability of Sydney society. However, as Macken points out with reference to a report by Mant, there is little concern amongst government or western discourse in general, as to the dangers of extreme social stratification for the citizens of Australia. Subsequently, government policies adopt an ‘east’ mindset in that they only see the world that they live in~ they are not exposed to the circumstances of life for those that are not in a higher income bracket. Apparently this is not the case for the living residences of decision-makers in other large economically important cities across the globe.
On reflection, this reminds me of the life of the Buddha, when he was a prince~ he was shielded from the ‘have nots’ and had no idea how they lived day to day, what their challenges and joys were. As far as he was concerned, everyone lived in a state similar to his; happy, needs attended to and healthy; only he was more special given he was royalty.
And the topic of social stratification also brings to mind for me (my sociological imagination) current conflicts involving terrorism, where the poorest of the poor in the world express their anger at a capitalist mindset that remains largely indifferent to developing nations needs and expectations; whilst growing obese, more greedy and continuing to distance itself from the ‘have nots’.
Having read over a superb sample essay of this topic, Sample Essay: Developing the Sociological Imagination I can see another reason for this article being kept in use~ it does generalise, simplify and present an ambiguous blend of biased information.
What is your take on the article by Macken (if you have access to it)? What is your critique of the sample essay on the topic?
Today’s post is a critical reading to share my learning of ‘Sociological Imagination’. My first and only course in sociology was over 7 years ago! and now with students asking me questions about it, I decided it was time to review my understanding of this concept.
What is sociological imagination I ask myself…Sociology refers to the socio-culture we are each embedded in, though, due to globalisation and technological advances, it is more a ‘disembededdness. ‘ Psychology looks to the micro-cosm of the individual, sociology to the macro-cosm of institutions, beliefs and practices of the society that individual lives within.
Imagination is that creative ‘soul’ within us, nourished by the unconscious~ it is fuzzy, eclectic, dynamic and helps to shape conscious thoughts, decisions and behavioural responses.
Putting the two together I think that sociological imagination refers to how I create my own reality of what a society is and how to interpret cultural practices.
- Giddens, A (2006). Sociology, 5th ed
Giddens defines sociology as the use of the scientific method to investigate and cultivate understanding of human social life; groups and societies. How we are as ‘social beings’ requires a bird’s eye view of ourselves and the communities we live within.
To be able to study our own societies and social groups, as well as others, requires imagination~ not rote learning; it “…cannot be just a routine process of acquiring knowledge” (p. 4).
I like where Giddens is going so far ~:-) true scientist~ get creative! get thinking, be the discoverer…
He encourages a person to step away from the known, the every-day familiar, to ‘dis-embed’ from the personal now~ and to have a look at the wider circumstances in which we live. Context being more than what is happening for ‘me’.
C. Wright Mills in 1970 first coined the phrase ‘sociological imagination’. The goal seems to be to disassociate from one’s Self and thus gain a new perspective; a new or additional way of viewing the world and ourselves in it.
Sounds shamanic~ I like it. I think it reflects many First Nation indigenous ways of seeing and acting within the world~ taking a bird’s eye view not only of landscapes but of one’s social self.
When we use the lens of sociological imagination, we are able to broaden the focus from what appears to be an individual behaviour, to have a panoramic view of larger social issues influencing and influenced by, that individual. Giddens uses the example of coffee drinking…
For me coffee is a ritual (no instant crap, stove top or caffe is a must!), it is a symbolic ‘start-to-the-day’ as well as a way that I cultivate rapport with others when I meet for ‘a coffee’ or a ‘coffee date’. So it is both a personal and a social ritual for me. It is also an environmental ritual as I know that the nitrogen content is fantastic for my garden and so all used grounds go into the compost.
I agree that I enjoy it’s socially acceptable drug quality (caffeine) most especially in the morning~ though I limit myself to two cups because too much of a good thing negates its value ~:-)
As to the socio-economic issues of coffee drinking, these are aspects that I activly seek to educate myself on. When I purchase my ground coffee beans I strive for Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance options. Though, not all Fair Trade does actually walk its talk, this is one of the reasons reading and investigating the option is an ongoing process. I like to purchase local coffee as I live in an abundant coffee growing area, though sometimes their products are not available at the local supermarket or they are out of the price range that I am willing to spend on coffee ($10 per 500g).
When out and about I rarely frequent multinational cafes, preferring instead local businesses. I do not have ‘my place’, I like to visit different ones to support local businesses, though my favorite places are along the waterfront of Cairns.
It makes sense, after reviewing my relationship with coffee, to be able to see this individual behaviour is embedded in broader social practices and issues. My coffee habit not only affects my life but is interdependent with and influencing the lives of many many others; within my own social group, wider community and at the global level.
Giddens then challenges the reader of his text to apply this broad lens to themselves with regards to learning sociology~ Why are you reading this text? What do you think you have in common with others reading this text? What is your ethnic and demographic makeup? Are you working? How do you define sociology?
“Social backgrounds…have a great deal to do with what kinds of decisions we think appropriate” (p. 7).
I really like that Giddens is challenging us as learners to reflect on where we come from~ socially~ to better understand why we think and behave as we do, now.
Quite confronting at times.
What is your definition of sociological imagination? How does coffee fit into your life and thus broader society? In what ways does your social background affect your reasons for taking a sociology course?
For those of you who have their first essay assignments due this week, an overview of the expectations for an argumentative paper could be helpful.What really counts in an essay…? Your argument. The content is the material to support your argument.
Here is my Argumentative Essay playlist on Youtube, I included a couple of parodies~ otherwise the subject gets a bit dry! Creativity needs nourishment.
Other web resources for your perusal
Peer-reviewed reading (use your uni databases to access full texts)
What is your most recent essay topic? Which side are you taking and why?
Revision is the key to learning! Pre and post test yourself on IVs and DVs here:
At times, the whole process of using the APA formatting style (or any other in fact) can drive you a bit batty and be overwhelming. Like anything, time and practice helps the skill to develop. I still need to look things up, such as how to cite a page of a website or a video recording.
Here is a 3-step process that I use to keep the formatting under control:
1. Cite in text as you draft~ use your style guide.
2. Simultaneously, cut and past journal details and web links to a word doc (don’t worry about formatting here yet).
3. After final draft edit, leave yourself at least 2-3 hours to format the ref list and to check it against in-text citations (hence the separate word doc, easier to click b/w windows rather than scroll up and down doc).
How does this process work for you? Are you using a different method…? Please share~
For many first year students in Australia, this week saw your introduction to research design. It can take some practice to identify an independent variable (IV) and dependant variable (DV). Remember, whatever you are measuring, that’s your DV!
Sometimes your IV cannot be manipulated by you (at least legally and morally ~:-), for example, if you need a group of people who have a broken leg, are parents or you are looking at gender differences.
Also, depending on your research question any variable can be either an IV or DV. Here is a vid to help you further familiarise yourself with the concepts and the link to my playlist on YouTube with others can be clicked below. Enjoy!
Introduction to Research Methods: IVs and DVs (YouTube playlist)
What IVs and DVs have you been looking at recently?
A composite image, as above, is the “average face” across all visual images of one particular person.
When analysing your data in SPSS you may want to see each participant’s average score across a set of questions/tests. Here is how to create a new variable that will add together the set of scores and then work out the average of that set (composite), for each person in your sample:
- Top of screen choose “Transform” , click on “Compute Variable”
- Score is the “Target Variable”, type it in
- In “Numerical Expression” type: mean(
- Click on your variables to go in the brackets~ the ones you want the means of)
- Type: )
- Scroll to end of spreadsheet and you have the new variable Score, with means of variables 1-4
A screen shot of these steps can be found here: Creating Composite Scores in SPSS
What composite scores are you looking at this week?
Fan fare today as the Oscars are underway in LA, meanwhile, you the student need not miss out on the glitz and glamor. Today I wanted to transfer some of that celebrity excitement to study skill nominations. And number one for me, more than worthy of an Oscar (academically speaking) is Your learning environment. Following are reasons why I have nominated this study skill and resources to aid you in riding on its glory during your academic adventure:
You Can Create a Learning Environment at Home
It is crucial that you create, implement and maintain a learning environment within your home. Your “study” setting, décor, organisation and time schedules, routines and rules for when you communicate with others during your study times are all a part of your learning management.
To establish an optimum learning environment tailored to your unique needs requires planning, follow through and continuous monitoring. It is not just a space for you to study; it is your physical and cognitive place for learning.
Take the time, for You! Have fun, get creative, and take a note from feng shui and other environmental resource links at the end of this article to transform your space into a personalised place of learning. Use your imagination as well as logic ~:-)
Factors to consider during set-up:
- Personalise: Priority~ What decor/furnishings/set up nurtures You? Where is the best place for a vision board? Do you have your own cup/water glass? A favourite poem or photo etc.
as well as…
- Temperature: Do the windows need curtains or an awning? Could a pedestal fan/radiator be of use? Consider alternatives to air conditioning/heaters~ keep things green as you can.
- Lighting: Is there enough light to read without resorting to fluorescent? Do you have a lamp for those evening shifts? Will it give enough light to read by for long periods?
- Materials: What stationary is needed to help with organisation? (e.g., coloured paper, stapler, scissors, pens and coloured pencils, folders, tacks and blue tac); What hardware is needed to support learning? (e.g., usbs, printer/scanner, web cam and mike); What software is needed to enhance your learning? (e.g., Abode, Microsoft Office, SPSS student version/full).
whilst keeping in mind…
- Distractions: What challenges can you identify (e.g., TV in the room, fridge nearby, traffic outside, kids!; How can these be navigated/modified/eliminated [not the kids ~:-)]
- Motivational climate: Have you created a vision board? Have you reflected on your reasons for being at uni? Do you have a reward system for continuous appreciation of meeting the little milestones? (e.g., listen to music, read a chapter of that novel, watch a favourite TV show, go for a run).
- Goal chart: Have you established your goals for going to uni? Taking each subject? Semester scheduling? Have you identified study skill strengths and challenges to identify gaps and how to amend them? Do you have a study schedule?
Goal setting is Gold
Creating a list of goals is a way to set expectations for yourself. It helps you to identify what you need to do to reach each goal and thus realise your strengths and challenges, and to plan effectively for your academic success.
Goal setting are your personalised rules and procedures to enable you to meet the outcomes you want, e.g., confident understanding of a topic that can be reflected in high grades.
Goals and steps to achieving them are your way of outlining your own behavioural expectations and procedures for Getting Things Done (GTD).
Having your own personalised Code of Conduct is awesome! Like any form of navigation, you need a point on the horizon to set your (internal) compass to. This saves time, mental and physical energy and money~ it makes the academic adventure meaningful to You, which helps you to persevere and stay motivated during ‘stormy’ times.
Ultimately, be accountable to yourself. So don’t be making time for that overnight DVD if you have not made time for yourself to review class and reading notes.
Your Can Create Your Own Motivational Climate
It is essential that your study place is an environment that motivates, excites and encourages you to learn. A vision board can remind you of the value your time and sacrifices are to meeting your learning outcomes. A learning journal also enables You to see the value and worth of what you already know, what new learning you are being exposed, and that how You learn is critical to being able to meet your academic goals.
Effort that you put into your studies and assessments requires not just time and energy on your part, but imagination and creativity. Discover ways to relate new knowledge, skills and competencies to your daily life and experiences, and you will realise ways to motivate yourself to tackle challenging topics and to bounce back from disappointments.
Taking the time to set up a learning environment and to ensure it fulfills its function to enable and enhance your learning experiences is a personal ritual. Conscientious decision-making will empower you to reflect on your work ethic as a student and the choices that are needed to maintain an optimal learning place~ for You.
Learning Place Resources
Share your experiences of designing your study space…
Happy joy! This is your first year of uni/college and whether you are continuing your ed from high school or are entering academia as a mature aged student, this is a time of excitement plus. O-Week (for the students in Oz) was hopefully a fun-filled frolic and Week 1 saw your map-reading and time-scheduling skills come to the fore. For those readers who are in the midst of semester (international readers), this post is still of relevance to you.
Studying to pass exams is not a good strategy (c.f., Biggs, 2001).
Hopefully your lecturer/TAs etc are learner-centred and not assessment-focused. Learner-centredness is about utilising methods and resources to encourage the student, you, to engage more fully with the curriculum~ learning becomes a fun process, which will often be challenging, and always rewarding. Studying to pass assessments only results in rote memorisation and “hoop jumping” that does not help you to take ownership of your learning and make it relevant to your personal life and future career goals.
Save time, learn deeper. Discover your learning and study style/s and understanding will follow, enabling you to ace your exams and other assessments, as a way to demonstrate your understanding.
Every building needs materials, and the mortar for your bricks is your attitude or work ethic.
University learning takes on a highly personal dimension~ unlike high school, teaching staff are unlikely to check up as to why you did not attend class (TAs might for attendance and participation credits) and many a time, parents will not be at hand to ‘crack the whip’.
To help you realise your attitude/work ethic, reflect on the following bricks:
- What are your goals for your uni experience? Why are you here?
- Do you expect uni to be different to high school? Why/not and how so?
- What preparations do you need to make to be; organised; time efficient; a good note taker; an ongoing exam prepper; a reflective learner?
- According to your course outlines, when are; the crunch times during semester; the down times; and how to prepare for these?
- What study skills and habits do you have already? Which do you not have? How can you amend the gap?
- What writing/presentation skills do you have already? Which do you not have? How can you amend the gap?
- How can you monitor your progress and or goal outcomes? (e.g., are you reaching time milestones or confident understanding of a topic?)
- Do you have a study area? Why or why not? How can you maintain it to work for you?
- How can family and friends support your academic adventure? How can you communicate this to them? How can you ensure your boundaries are respected?
A key point in Dr P. Burns’ book, Success in College: From C’s in High School to A’s in College (2006), is that your academic resiliency will directly impact on your ability to succeed (as you define the word). Your motivation level, your passion to learn will influence how you bounce back from disappointments and navigate challenges.
Reflecting on the brick work above is a fantastic way to realise; what you want to build; what materials you have; what others do you need; what design you will use to build what you want; how to monitor your building progress; and what resources or methods are needed when things don’t go to plan.
Share your ‘building designs’ for your academic journey? What materials and resources are your strengths and what do you need more of?
Continuing on today with my series on tutor:mentor programs for social science students and the potential to influence funding decisions by the Australia Government. Below are my posts to the symposium that my colleague and I are facilitating online for our course at USQ.
Basically, the argument that successful tutor:mentor learning support programs jeopardize School/university programs, is crap.
Or action research and discussant collaboration continues~ as we may have missed something…~:-)
Professor Chubb, in the Australian, notes that “Unless you ensure that some, at least, of your universities are able to do research and produce educated people on a par with the best universities in other countries, then your country will suffer” [my italics].
It appears that enriching the student experience, as Chubb has done at ANU, secures government funding due to enhanced ranking of the university.
A summary of how education has an economic transaction and that universities are expected to generate more of their own funding as the state is less likely to contribute monies, unlike in the past when HE was viewed more for the “public good” (nowadays being viewed as more for the “personal good” of a student on a career path).
Also focuses on the WTO consideration of regulating “knoweldge products” as part of free trade, which will re-orientate the purpose of universities. This has serious implications for quality-control of degree programs for one.
Could it be that not having a high rate of high achieving students makes a university more eligible for external funding? If this is the case, is savy business strategy jeopardizing the greater community good as well as personal good of students wanting an education?
A PowerPoint presentation that highlights the link between a universities ranking and the likelihood of government support. Also, that the emphasis on research within universities will also affect government funding.
Ranking includes the rate of successful student achievement, and successful students are more likely to be employed by the university (or another) to undertake research and thus draw more funding. It stands to reason that successful learning support programs for undergraduates would increase a universities rank and quality and quantity of confident and competent researchers, thus securing ongoing funding from government bodies.
“Higher education performance funding is a key component of the teaching and learning section of Compacts. Performance Funding will provide incentives to universities to improve outcomes for students and achieve national objectives.”
It seems clear that the Australian government’s 10-year reform package, Transforming Australia’s Higher Education System aims to provide ongoing funding to those universities who demonstrate high achievement amongst students.
But what is meant by a “demand driven funding system”? Could this be the linchpin to the argument by senior lecturers in our dilemma?
The overview of the final teaching and learning performance framework, notes that there are 3 performance categories:
1. Participation and social inclusion
2. Student experience
3. Quality of learning outcomes
Our investigation will seek to identify how category 3 particularly, is determined. As it is expected that higher achieving students reflect higher quality of learning, and thus support a university in Australia gaining ongoing funding from the government.
Indicator 1. Student participation
This discussion paper p. 8 highlights that funding to universities in 2010 was with the expectation that each had negotiated a target to increase the number of commencing domestic students for 2011. Whilst a university may choose not to grow for a particular time or a particular rate, this must be negotiated with Government bodies to ensure that the “the aggregated institutional targets were aligned with the growth expected at the national level”. Overall, there is an expectation by the Government that universities receiving funding will continue to grow to enable a national attainment goal.
At present, we have not located the literature detailing what the “national attainment ambition” is. Could it be that some Schools and Universities have negotiated a target rate that slows growth, whilst remaining within criteria limits, and that successful learning support programs would increase growth and the long-term goals of the School/university?
As student participation is a prime indicator to enable funding, could it be that some universities have already achieved an increase in participation of students in the low SES and other under-representative groups and that further inclusion would inhibit applications for funding?
Indicator 2: Student experience
The second indicator, of student experience, appears to support the use of learning support programs, as the Government’s goal is to “Improve the overall teaching, learning and support provided to students” [my italics].
Engagement of students is to be measured by retentions rates. It stands to reason that students who understand, enjoy and achieve in their studies by way of extra tutor:mentor support are more likely to continue on with there studies. There is literature to support this; cf. The implementation of a Principal Tutor for first year psychology subjects at James Cook University Cairns Campus to increase student engagement; Classroom practices at institutions with higher-than-expected persistence rates: What student engagement data tell us
For example, “Long, Ferrier and Heagney (2006) found that among the reasons for discontinuing their study, some students indicated that they felt stressed and anxious about their study, others did not like the way the course was taught, others did not feel adequately prepared, while others felt lonely, isolated and unwelcome at university” [p. 12]
New Considered Indicator: Student Attainment
There is ongoing consideration as to whether this should be an indicator on its own or bundled with Student Experience. The performance goal for student attainment would be, “Increase the number of students who graduate with a bachelor degree, particularly low SES students” [my italics].
It appears that having more students highly achieving and graduating would contribute to the ongoing funding of a university.
Indicator 3: Quality of learning outcomes
On p. 19 it is clearly stated that the Government wants the best outcomes for all students. So it would not make sense for a School/University to actively inhibit programs that would meet the needs and expectations of struggling students.
One of the goals is to, “Improve students’ cognitive learning outcomes” which a learning support program would provide, as students have more opportunity for self-paced learning, gaining access to better understanding of topics, acquiring of better problem-soling and decision making strategies and a better understanding of how they learn.
It would be interesting to hear from others how their School/University is negotiating funding, for example, are learning support programs encouraged, are they successful and does this affect funding? If there are no programs are targets being met for funding?
This is a critical reflective piece of writing to do with an assignment I am putting together for my tertiary teaching course. I will split it up across a series of posts, otherwise it will be a lengthy read for just one ~:-)
My colleague and I who have partnered for the online symposium that is part of our assessment are focusing on the sustainable development and inclusivity of undergraduate courses in social sciences that utilise learning support programs of tutor:mentors to complement lectures and tutorials that are already part of the curriculum.
Our educational dilemma drew on an experience I had as a tutor at a university, Undergraduate social science program coordinators are concerned that HE Department funding will be negatively affected by successful learning support programs.
Whilst a TA in a School of Psychology, for the first time in 10 years of a 3rd year stats course all students passed and I was asked by senior staff to cease my exam prep workshop for students. The senior staff argued that my successful workshops were jeopardizing funding to the School.
I said “No”. And left teaching soon after, with 3 months to go on my Masters.
My colleague and I feel that a commitment to the education of students and continuous professional development of staff would not jeopardize funding whilst raising the bar for what students could achieve. So our action research assignment has set out to see if this is the case~ are funding bodies reluctant to support high achieving Schools?
Whilst we have collected a wealth of literature supporting learning support programs, it must be kept in mind that there is a bias for the publication of studies which have found significant differences in learning. So we have scouted theses databases for unpublished studies of programs that may not have seen positive changes in learning for undergrads.
My next task, after publishing this post, is to email those researchers of successful programs to ask them if they had problems securing ongoing funding due to the success of their programs.
Stay tuned ~:-)
What are your thoughts? Would you expect funding to more likely for Schools whose undergrads are high achievers? How do you think you would respond to emotional blackmail in the workplace?