Bringing Sociology to life is essential, especially as its is a discipline that is so concept laden, with many of these new ideas being pretty abstract and difficult to get a handle on. Research methods, unlike topics with clear issues and debates, like education and crime, is one area that we need to find a way to make it accessible and engaging. This brilliant book does just that.
‘A picture is worth a thousand words’, and that’s what you get page after page here. Sociology in pictures illustrates key concepts and issues in a way that gets to the core of ideas in a simplistic, yet sophisticated manner. By using eye-catching, dynamic and humorous images, along with a text that is focused and easy to follow, students are able to ‘get it!’ straight away. I find this invaluable, as so many students that I have taught over the years need a way in, a kind of ‘visual bridge’ to help make the connect happen. The words we use never seem to be enough, learning is always best enhanced by an image, as Bruner reminds us in his writings on iconic representation in his work on learning theory. This is the only resource that I know which delivers in this respect.
As an advocate of active learning and student-centred learning, I find this book a powerful tool in my classroom. Take for example the image of Becker regarding ‘Whose side are we on?’. From that one image you can unravel so much about the underdog and their defence. With this digital edition, I am able to share the image on screen and with students, write on the white board a host of points that we can discuss, such as ‘where is the voice of these protesters to be heard?’, ‘what do Symbolic Interactionists focus on – what kind of data is valid to them and why?’, ‘who control the political agenda in society?’ etc. We can use images like this as a starting point for further work on value-freedom. Take Gouldner’s quote, in that cartoon, on value freedom being a myth in sociology – get students to complete a Facebook-style response to this, with a reply from Comte or Durkheim. Distribute a series of cards with central concepts like; verstehen, reliability, positivism etc, and ask students to consider how these apply to Becker’s assertion about defending the underdog. Ultimately, what makes these pictures allow us to do, is get on with the business of ‘thinking about sociology’, which in turn makes it mean something to our students. From here they can analyse, apply and evaluate effectively. I love how this book gets away from the traditi0nal turgid text, which always encouraged a ‘shopping list sociology’ approach , where students regurgitated a rehearsed sequence of points (and usually badly). Our discipline deserves better than that – our beauty is in how we engage with real life and how ideas can be linked (serendipity) and applied in a creative fashion.That’s why I get of bed each day and do the job I do.
Whilst this book is a great benefit to ‘old hands’ like me, I believe that it is a wonderful tool for many new-comers and non-specialists in the subject. Too often, I have spent what seems like an eternity trying to explain a concept and agenda to a colleague who is unfamiliar with sociology. With this book, I find it does so much of this for me. They can’t put it down and have a much greater appreciation of the complexities of research methods as a result. This should be a compulsory read for all new sociology teachers in my opinion.
Overall, this is a great resource and invaluable on may levels. Written by ab author who has always appreciated the needs of learners in the sociology classroom, and one who combines clarity and humour so well. If you want to bring sociology to life in your lessons – get this book!