Topic 1 – Why do we have families? General advice



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Topic 1 – Why do we have families?

General advice
It is very important to be well-prepared for examinations. Passing examinations is not just a matter of luck; it helps to understand what is required by the examiners and to use good examination techniques in order to get the grades that you deserve.
You are working towards a qualification which has been set by the Welsh Joint Education Committee www.wjec.co.uk. This qualification has been designed according to strict guidelines and is set and marked according to rules that should be clearly understood by everyone who is involved in the examining process.
It will help you to do better in the examination if you are aware of all of the information available to candidates and to teachers.
If you look on the Welsh Joint Education Committee website, you will find copies of


  • The specification – this tells teachers what they must teach and also tells examiners what they are allowed to ask questions about. Examiners may not ask questions that are not on the specification.




  • Assessment materials – these give candidates and teachers an understanding of what the examinations will look like and how they will be marked and assessed.

There are also other useful materials for you to look at or links for you to follow.


You will find materials on the NGfL-Cymru www.ngfl-cymru.org.uk website that may be useful for you when you prepare for your examinations.
You may find useful links if you go to the Association for the Teaching of Sociology website www.atss.org.uk and click on ‘good sites for sociologists on the Internet’.

Understanding the question
Questions begin with command words. These are the words that tell you exactly what you must do in the examination. They give you the clue as to how you should plan your writing.
Typical command words used in the sociology examination include:

Discuss

Here you should put both sides to an argument and come to a logical conclusion


Outline

Describe what the most important characteristics of something is


Account for

Give reasons why something is like it is


Analyse

Examine something in detail and comment on it with supporting evidence


Assess

Make a judgement on something


Evaluate

Make comments on the quality of something, say how good it is or how poor


Explain

Describe something in your own words and comment on it and why it is important


Examine

Look in detail at the reasons why something is as it is


Comment

Express an opinion backed up with some evidence


Criticise

Say what is both good and bad about something


Put ‘command words’ into Google and see what other websites have to offer in terms of guidance as to examination questions.
Examination Exercise
Learn to think like an examiner!


  • Look at the specimen assessment materials for the examination that you will be sitting.




  • Look at the materials and the notes in this section of the course.




  • Think of simple questions that you could ask about the topic that you have been studying.




  • If you are feeling confident, suggest a rough guide to the kinds of answers that you might expect to see to the questions that you have designed.


Topic 2 - What key demographic changes are affecting families in Britain?

Mark schemes
When examiners set an examination, they also write a mark scheme. This is done to ensure that all of the people who mark the examination use the same basic standards to assess the papers. It is done to ensure fairness and consistency.
All mark schemes apply positive marking. Examiners mark what is present and will not remove marks for mistakes.

Assessment objectives
Examiners are looking for evidence that you have certain skills appropriate to AS/A2 level. These are:

AO1 Knowledge and Understanding

Candidates should be able to:




  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of relevant theories, methods, concepts and forms of evidence

  • Communicate this knowledge and understanding in a clear and effective way



AO2 Identification, Analysis, Interpretation and Evaluation

Candidates should be able to:




  • Acquire and apply skills of identification, analysis, interpretation and evaluation appropriately

They can be seen in a mark scheme in a box. Only the marks in the column marked Banding count. The other marks are just a guide for the examiners.


Markers will look at the answers in the examination papers in front of them. They then look at the descriptions in the markscheme. They decide which band the work fits into and then they choose a mark for each piece of writing.


Banding

AO1 (8)

AO2 (7)

12 - 15

6 – 8

Candidates will be able to make accurate, appropriate and detailed reference to a range of writers, research and theory.


There will be a detailed level of knowledge and understanding and this will be detailed and wide ranging.
Candidates will be able to refer to more than one area of sociology where appropriate.
Answers will be expressed in appropriate sociological language
Candidates will be able to make accurate and appropriate use of the sociological terminology indicated in the specifications showing knowledge and understanding of its meaning.
The quality of written communication is very good, with few, if any, errors of spelling punctuation or grammar.

5 – 7

Candidates will relate their knowledge directly to the question under consideration and this link will be detailed and explicit.


References to writers, research and/or theory will be explained in detail and contextualised.
Answers will be formally constructed with a clear and logical argument.
Evaluation and/or analysis will be detailed and explicit throughout the answers.
The candidate may challenge the terms of the question.

.


8 - 11

4 - 6

Candidates will be able to make some accurate, appropriate reference to writers, research or theory.


There will be some knowledge and understanding and this will be detailed or wide ranging.
Candidates may be able to refer to more than one area of sociology where appropriate.
Answers will make some use of appropriate sociological language.
Candidates may be able to make some the sociological terminology indicated in the specifications showing some knowledge and understanding of its meaning.
The quality of written communication is, for the most part good though there may be some errors of spelling punctuation and grammar.

4 – 5

Candidates will relate their knowledge to the question under consideration but the link is likely to be more implicit than in band 4.


References to writers, research or theory will have some explanation.
Answers will have some clarity and logical argument.
Evaluation or analysis is likely to be implicit and is unlikely to be present throughout the answer.


4 - 7

2 - 3

Candidates will be able to make basic references to writers, research or theory.


There will be basic knowledge and understanding but this will lack detail and will not be wide ranging.
Candidates will make basic references to other areas of sociology.
There will be limited and at times inaccurate use of the sociological terminology indicated in the specifications.
The quality of written communication will be limited with frequent errors of punctuation, spelling and grammar.

2 – 3

Candidates will basic links between their knowledge and the question.


There will be basic explanation of any writers, research or theory referred to.
Answers will have basic clarity or logical argument.
Any evaluation or analysis will be implicit and very limited.



1 - 3

1 - 2

Candidates may rely on anecdotal references with few if any references to writers, research or theory.


There will be limited knowledge or understanding.
There will be limited use of sociological language
The quality of written communication will be poor with numerous errors of spelling, punctuation and grammar.

1

Candidates will make limited links between their knowledge and the question.


There will be limited explanation of any writers, research or theory.
There will be limited analysis.


0

No relevant knowledge or understanding displayed

No relevant analysis

Look at the following question and the answer which has been written. Suggest which mark bands the answer belongs in and be prepared to justify your answer to your study partners.



Discuss how population change has affected the structure of UK families since World War 2

(15)


The study of populations is known as demography and the demography of the United Kingdom has changed significantly since World War 2. This has had a large effect on family structures and family life because people have different lives because of what has happened.
One big change in society that has affected families is that people live longer. There are more old people in the population and they need to be looked after. This is a problem for society. This means that the whole population is getting older. There are more old people than children.
Many people do not live in families anymore and this has affected families because people are not in families but live on their own. Some of these people have never had a partner but some of these people have divorced or maybe they are old and their partners have died. This means that more houses need to be built for all of the people who live on their own.
Also, people are not getting married but are living together without getting married and this is cohabitation. Sometimes people live together before they get married so they can save up for a house or a wedding. This affects families because it is easier to break up if you have never married. More families are breaking up.
Women do not want to have children so the average family size has gone down. This means that there are fewer families where people have children. There are more one parent families. This is because the population has changed.

Topic 3 - Why are family changes taking place??
Questions to consider:
Outline and explain why divorce rates have changed since the 1970s.
Discuss reasons for falling birth rates over the past fifty years.
Identify reasons why family structures are undergoing change in modern Britain.

Focus on AO1 - Knowledge and Understanding
When writing extended answers on examination papers, it is necessary to plan out what you need to say. If you are lucky and have worked hard, it is possible that you know more than is needed. In many cases, the issue is one of adapting what you know carefully and then applying it to the question that you have been asked.
When considering changes in family organisation and family life, for example, there are a number of changes that have taken place. If you have studied this topic carefully you will realise that many of the same basic reasons underlie most of those family changes. These include the following, though you may have other ideas as well.


  • Medical changes

  • Legal change

  • Social change

  • Attitudinal change

  • Work patterns

  • Feminisation of work and society

  • Economic change

  • Secularisation

Mark schemes specify that you should refer to writers, research and theory. This can include government statistical information. Revision is important and should start early in your course.


Focus on AO2 - Identification, Analysis, Interpretation and Evaluation


  • Identification - You will realise that you can apply your knowledge of the underlying reasons for family change to any of the above titles,




  • Analysis - Some causes of family change apply more to one answer than the others. Select which points you want to make.




  • Interpretation - In addition, you will need to consider what kind of evidence to use to back up your points.




  • Evaluation – This is when you comment on the importance or significance of some causes of family change being more important or significant than others.

Task
Write a basic plan for one of the essays above, using the sub-headings and considering the assessment objectives.



Topic 4 - What types of families and households exist in modern Britain?
Time planning
Many candidates have problems under examination conditions because they do not organise their time well. They write too much for short answer questions and leave themselves too little time for longer answers.
Check the amount of time that is available for the examination and then the amount of marks for each question. This gives you a rough guide to how much time you should allocate to each answer. Low mark questions should be answered quickly, but not so quickly that you miss the easy marks that are often available.
If you finish a question quickly and find you have nothing to say, move on to the next question. Do not struggle to remember things. You could leave space on your paper because you may think of something to add later.
Don’t write too much. There are no additional marks for long answers. Examiners prefer to read something that is clear and well planned.
Practicing examination skills


  • Write for five minutes about anything that comes to mind: your last holiday, your pet, the next party you are going to.




  • Make sure that this writing is fairly clear, neat and in reasonable English.




  • If you have written fewer than 80 words in that time, you may need to think about speeding up your handwriting. There is only one way to do this; practice writing as much as possible. It may help to keep a diary, or write letters. Don’t focus too much on the content until you are able to write at speed. Often people are so concerned with neatness that they forget to write quickly.




  • If you were nearer 200 words, congratulations. This is a useful skill. Now, be honest with yourself – was what you wrote neat enough or well structured? Could you have spent a little of your time thinking things through and organising your ideas better? Did your writing come out as something of a jumble of ideas?

Practice exercise


Write for five minutes on all you know about one of the following:

  • Nuclear families

  • Same sex families

  • Extended families

  • Single parents

  • Single person households

  • Blended families

  • Beanpole families

  • Ethnic minority families.

Do not forget that in your answer you should be attempting to achieve examination skills and mark schemes specify that you should refer to writers, research and theory. This can include government statistical information.


Mark your work, or better still, get a study partner to mark your work using WJEC assessment criteria.
These are the AO1 assessment criteria for a full 5 marks


  • Candidates will be able to make accurate, appropriate and detailed reference to a range of writers, research and theory.




  • There will be a detailed level of knowledge and understanding and this will be wide ranging.




  • Answers will be expressed in appropriate sociological language




  • Candidates will be able to make accurate and appropriate use of the sociological terminology indicated in the specifications showing knowledge and understanding of its meaning.




  • The quality of written communication is very good, with few, if any, errors of spelling punctuation or grammar.

These are the AO1 assessment criteria for 2 to 3 marks




  • Candidates will be able to make basic references to writers, research or theory.




  • There will be basic knowledge and understanding but this will lack detail and will not be wide ranging.




  • There will be limited and at times inaccurate use of the sociological terminology indicated in the specifications.




  • The quality of written communication will be limited with frequent errors of punctuation, spelling and grammar.

You should repeat the exercise until you feel comfortable with your knowledge and the quality and amount that you can write in five minutes.



Topic 5 - What factors affect family formation and family life?

Forgetting is both normal and useful for human beings. Psychology has shown us that we forget virtually everything we learn in a very short space of time. One of the most important examination skills is revision as it is clear that the best way humans have of retaining information is constant rehearsal of the facts to be learned.


Many people have a preferred way of learning and this is known as a learning style. To find out more, Google the term and see what you discover about yourself. Do not pay for learning style analyses or give your email address to anyone. There are plenty of free sites you can access online. When you discover the correct learning style for you, then use the techniques suggested. However, remember that no revision technique is useless, anything that works is good.
Revision guidelines


  • Revise very quickly after a class




  • Set aside time each day for revision of topics




  • Revise frequently, but in small amounts of time




  • Try not to learn too much in one go




  • Revise with a friend or study partner






Examination preparation
Using PowerPoint or Index cards create a revision sequence for this unit of work.
Make sure that there are no more than 50 words on each card or PowerPoint slide.
Think about how you can use colour to make your cards more memorable.
Think about different ways of using the cards or the PowerPoint as revision aids for your learning.
You should discuss different revision ideas with your teaching group.
Start your revision now!
Topic 6 – What do sociologists tell us about changing relationships within families?
If you look at the mark scheme for extended questions, and see the top mark band for AO2, you will see the following sentence.
Answers will be formally constructed with a clear and logical argument.
This means that the essay will be easy to read because it is obvious from the essay that the candidate has understood the question and planned an answer that leads to a thoughtful conclusion. The essay will have a structure and the information will be organised in a logical sequence that is easy to follow.
Look at the following question.
To what extent are family relationships changing in modern Britain?
Here you are being asked a direct question on which you are expected to make a judgement.
There are three possible conclusions to this essay.
Conclusion 1
Family relationships are changing a lot in modern Britain.
Conclusion 2
Family relationships are changing in some ways, but in other ways they remain much the same as family relationships have always been.
Conclusion 3
Family relationships are not undergoing any changes at all. They are all the same as they have always been
What conclusion you choose to follow depends on your own point of view and the evidence that you can draw on to support what you think. You will not gain or lose marks for the conclusion that you draw from the evidence – it is how you lead up to your conclusion that will give you the grade that you deserve.
Here is one possible plan for an essay that leads to conclusion 2.
Introduction:
Explain the question in your own words. Here you tell the examiners that you understand that there is a serious debate in sociology about the way that families may or may not be changing.
If you have done this well, any reader will know what the question was, without actually having seen it.
Paragraph 2
Here you discuss one way in which family relationships may have changed. Refer to writers, theories, studies and any other evidence such as statistical evidence to support your point. For higher level evaluation marks, you should comment on the strength of the evidence.
Paragraph 3
Here you discuss another way in which family relationships may have changed. Refer to writers, theories, studies and any other evidence such as statistical evidence to support your point. For higher level evaluation marks, you should comment on the strength of the evidence.
Paragraph 4
Show that you are aware that there is another point of view. Criticise the evidence that families have changed in a fairly general way remembering that you can criticise in a positive as well as a negative sense.
Refer to writers, theories, studies and any other evidence such as statistical evidence to support your point.
Under examination conditions, this is a good time to check that you have not wandered from the point of the essay and to read what you have already written before moving onto the second part of your essay.
Paragraph 5
Here you discuss one way in which family relationships may have remained similar to what they have always been. Refer to writers, theories, studies and any other evidence such as statistical evidence to support your point. For higher level evaluation marks, you should comment on the strength of the evidence.
Paragraph 6
Here you discuss another way in which family relationships may have remained similar. Refer to writers, theories, studies and any other evidence such as statistical evidence to support your point. For higher level evaluation marks, you should comment on the strength of the evidence.
Conclusion
Make sure that this answers the question. Now you have examined the evidence, which side do you think offers a better point of view? Write your answer clearly.
Now, read your essay. Make sure that you read what you have actually written, not what you think you have written. Under pressure, people do not always check their work properly.


  • Have you referred to writers, theories, studies or other evidence in every paragraph?

  • Have you referred back to the question in every paragraph?

  • Have you drawn a clear and careful conclusion to the whole essay?


Topic 7 - How do social policies affect families in Britain?
If you look at the markscheme, both for AO1 and AO2, you will see that good writing is rewarded. You will lose marks if your essay is badly written. This could happen even if your sociology is good.
Look at the following two passages:
Passage 1
I think that the government has interfered in families too much. My Mum thinks the same. They never leave people alone and they even make laws over who should have the kids when people split because there are rules about who can have the children. When my brother split from his partner, she moved away and we never get to see my nephews and it is because of the laws the government has and the way in which mothers get treated.
Passage 2
There is a very strong argument which suggests that government policy has intruded on family life. It is argued that they make laws that affect personal decisions. This can be seen in the case of relationship breakdown where there are strict legal rules as to who should take care of the children. In most cases of family breakdown, it is easier for mothers to have full custody of the children.

Think about the two passages.




  • What are the differences between the two passages?

  • In what ways are the two passages similar?

  • Which passage do you think is more sociological?

  • Why is that passage more sociological?

Sociological writing should:




  • Use sociological language where necessary

  • Use formal language

  • Avoid personal opinions

  • Be clear and scientific

  • Use short sentences where possible

  • Refer to evidence and examples to support points of view

Task
Look at the following passages. Turn them into better sociology writing than they are now. You may want to change some of them a lot.


Remember the rules for good writing. Add evidence of accurate, appropriate and detailed reference to a range of writers, research and theory where relevant.

Passage 1


I think that Conservatives and the New Right are wrong about modern families when they say that society is breaking down because it is obvious that really families are just changing to suit the times that we live in.
Passage 2
Divorce laws have become much easier now so that people can get divorced too easily and they don’t make the effort to stay together and that’s the reason for why people don’t stay together, because it is just too easy to split.

Passage 3


A woman in England was sent to jail twice because she wouldn’t make her daughters go to school and that’s evidence of government policy affecting people. It was in the news a lot because she let them stay home and the Council took her to court to make sure she was a better parent.

Passage 4


It is clear and obvious that Government laws and policy on families are changing all of the time because the government tries to follow what people in real life are doing and has to change their policies to do what is happening in the real world and some of the examples of where this is happening is in the case of same sex families and gay couples. Things that gay people can do now is get married now and adopt children if they want and they can have surrogate children and it is all seen as perfectly normal and no-one things too much about it because their attitudes have changed.

Topic 8 – How do functionalists explain family formation?
People learn by adding information to things that they already know. This is known as a frame of reference.
One way of organising learning is to create a mind map. This is sometimes called a spider diagram.
This involves thinking about your main idea and then thinking about other ideas that link into the main idea.
It is possible to link in further ideas to the diagram.
Excellent websites that show students how to create mind maps can be seen at
http://www.jcu.edu.au/studying/services/studyskills/online.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map
http://www.mind-mapping.co.uk
It is a useful tool for revision because a good mind map only contains the most important ideas.
It is a useful tool for essay planning because it helps to organise information in a logical and clear order.
A good mind map should be


  • Concise

  • Colourful

  • Imaginative

  • Have drawings and cartoons

  • Be attractive to the person creating it

Task
Use a sheet of A3 paper to create a mind map of Functional views of the family.


Pin it up in your room at home.
After a week, try and reproduce it without looking at it. You may be surprised at how much you have recalled of this topic

Topic 9 – What criticisms do people have of families?
To reach the top mark band for AO2 (Identification, Analysis, Interpretation and Evaluation) in the mark scheme, essays should meet the following criterion:
Evaluation and/or analysis will be detailed and explicit throughout the answers.
When writing is marked, examiners will often look for evaluative language and underline it. This is because markers are looking for evidence that candidates are not just repeating things that they have learned. Markers are looking for evidence that candidates understand the question (AO1), have thought about it (AO2) and are making judgements on it (AO2).
At A2 level and in colleges, AO2 is usually worth more marks than AO1 (Knowledge and Understanding).
There are certain phrases that are associated with analysis and evaluation. They are the ones that show that a judgement is being made.
Examples of such phrases include:


  • So those who argue that …

  • It can be seen that …

  • It follows from that point that …

  • In evidence is …

  • This suggests that …

  • This shows that …

  • In opposition to that is …

  • On the other hand …

  • Thus …

  • However …

  • This point is illustrated by …

  • The weakness in this view is …

  • The strength to this argument is …

  • The statistics can be questioned because …

  • Possibly this is because …

  • Possible reasons for this are …

  • Because …

  • In conclusion

  • Furthermore …

  • Supporting evidence shows that …

Task
Look at the following statements that are typical of Functional and New Right views of the family.


Using explicit evaluative language, comment on these statements. The first one is done for you.

Functionalists view the family as positive for society.



Functionalists view the family as positive for society, however this has been criticised by feminists and Marxists because it overlooks the dark side of family life.
Now try it for yourself:


  1. Functionalists claim that families are a primary agent of socialisation …




  1. Talcott Parsons is associated with the view that men and women should fulfil very different roles in the family with women taking care of emotions and men providing income …




  1. Functionalists agree that the most important type of family is the nuclear family …




  1. Functionalists argue that the family is one of the core institutions in society …




  1. The New Right suggest that the breakdown of family is a cause of crime …




  1. Sociologists from the New Right claim that diverse family types are not successful and that they lead to social breakdown …




  1. According to the New Right, nuclear families with parents of either sex are the family type best able to produce well socialised children …




  1. Dennis and Erdos (2005) say that fatherless young men are likely to show irresponsible and immature behaviour …

References
Dennis N and Erdos G (2005) Cultures and Crimes: Policing in Four Nations London, Civitas
Parsons T (1971) The System of Modern Societies NJ, Prentice Hall
Topic 10 – What is the future of the family?
Look at the following characteristics of good answers to examination questions. There are a number of ways of using this list to enhance your learning.


  • Print out this sheet and cut out the characteristics from the table below. Arrange them in the order in which you think an examiner would see as important. Put the most important at the top. Discuss your ranking with a study partner.




  • Alternatively, give each characteristic a mark out of 12. Use each possible mark once. Write down your reasons for your ranking.




  • Create a brightly coloured poster on A3 paper for your room. Keep looking at it.







  • Buy some bright coloured card, perhaps using star shapes and write the key points on each card. Tie the cards to cotton and then tie the cotton to a wire coat hangar to make a revision mobile for your room. Keep looking at it.




Write in sociological language

Have a good introduction and conclusion

Refer to theories, writers and evidence to support answers

Stick to the point of the essay

Answer the question

Show evidence of having thought about the question carefully.

Use evaluative language

Make sure that you write enough

Plan your writing carefully

Write in an interesting style

Spelling and punctuation should be good.

Write analytically




Examination skills for family material page


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