I’ve noticed it a lot recently, but only in a way that confirmed my previously held belief, that Pol-Soc students really struggle to negotiate the process of ‘gathering and analyzing‘ data, as the subject specification suggests they do. This, I suspect, is partly because I’ve never had to teach this kind of data gathering before and partly because no other subject on the Leaving Cert asks students to do anything like this (as far as I can see). With the newly enforced Covid-19 restrictions, the kind of group work that I had been doing to let students gather, analyze, compare, and evaluate data seems to have gone out the window. So I’ve really been struggling to do this effectively in a classroom context…
Having partially anticipated this difficulty over the summer, I began a long-term project, that some of the Cohort 1 teachers had discussed at different stages (over a quiet beverage in the Killeshin Hotel…!) – trying to create a set of “Pol-Soc Log Tables” that would at least give students a bit of a start on the process. I think they call it ‘scaffolding‘ in the many education books that are (only slightly perused) on my shelf at home. It won’t (by any stretch of the imagination) be comprehensive, but should model the kind of process that we’re hoping that students will begin to gain at least some mastery of during their two years of LC Pol-Soc.
I decided to focus almost exclusively on the various Index-Rankings that we see these days, some of which are a little problematic at times, but some of which (at least) are useful starting points for exploring different topics on the course. I include a summary page at the start with “Headline Data” that might make it a little easier for students who struggle in this area to get their heads around. In that table, I give the Index Name and year, Ireland’s position in the Index, and contextualize that by giving the top and bottom 3 or 4 countries in each category. What follows in the next 20-ish pages is A brief summary of each index, how it works, some of the methodologies/maps/graphs that often accompany these Indices, and a box for students to complete that helps them to make the link between the Index and (most importantly) the kinds of essay titles to which those data best apply. That’ll take some work on the part of the student, but is (I hope) where this serves as a scaffolding exercise, rather than just a spoon feeding extravaganza…
Anyway, this is still in draft form, and I’m sure there’ll be some typos and mistakes, but I just can’t find any more time to devote to it. So, I give you, in its interim format, the…
PolSocPodcast Log Tables 2020-21
Ideally, I’ll return to these every year or two to update them, but if you knew the hours that have gone into this process already, you’d forgive me for my apprehension at this prospect!
The final thing to note is that nobody really knows what providing “up-to-date” info really means. I’ve basically said to my students that in my head, this means being within 2-3 years of the exam (or basically at any point after they started studying Pol-Soc in 4th or 5th year in school). But that’s just my best guess.
And my final CAVEAT… There really is no substitute for students digging into reports and reliable data for themselves. That’s where they solve the big problem of being able to anticipate some of the issues that they may come across in an unseen Data-Based Question themselves and recognize trends within those data. But for the moment, if I can just get my own students through this stuff, I’ll be reasonably happy!
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