Episode 8 is Live!

I’m delighted that the next episode of the podcast is up, but I take little credit for it. Stephen Farley and his team at Trócaire did a great job of producing a really useful podcast on one of our Key Thinkers, Fr Sean McDonagh, but it hasn’t gotten as much attention as I felt it deserved, so with Stephen’s approval (obviously!) I’m hosting it here, with just my own brief intro and conclusion to bookend their episode. Fr McDonagh has been very challenging for students, but has presented the teachers with an even bigger challenge – finding suitable resources. Hopefully this will help with that!

Listen here and let us know what you think. It’s also up on all the usual platforms like Apple iTunes and Stitcher.

I know that Trócaire had plans to produce more content, but those plans are on hold at the moment as they focus on their new podcast “The World Etc.”. From what I’ve heard of the new podcast, it’ll be really relevant to Pol Soc students too. Maybe if this episode gets a bit of traction, we can persuade the team at Trócaire to get a few more episodes up and running specifically for Pol-Soc students. (of course I’ll do what I can to help them!) There are lots of areas of potential overlap, so let’s see how it goes!

There are lots of additional resources available that accompany this episode. Trócaire produced a full resource booklet, with lots of extra case studies and classroom activities, and I have my usual listen-along guide, key thinker quizzes and revision notes. You can find them all on the Episode Notes page.

Meanwhile in the background, I’m chipping away at another few episodes that I hope to have up and available in the Autumn. Hopefully, we’ll have Locke, Marx, and Huntington in the pipeline… (if only there were more hours in the day!)

I’m also hoping to add a new section to the website in the next academic year called “Further Study” where we can showcase some of the university courses that would be a logical next step for any student who has been bitten by the Politics and Society ‘bug’. Keep a look out!

As ever, if you are in a position to help support the podcast, you can do that here.

Enjoy the last few weeks of your holidays and I hope everyone returns to school re-energized! (myself included!!!)



Chief Examiner’s Advice

My absolute final piece of advice…

Just after the Citizenship Projects were submitted in May, the State Exams Commission (SEC) issued the “Chief Examiner’s Report” on the inaugural Politics and Society exam. It made for very interesting (and reasonably encouraging) reading. It was full of observations on how students dealt with the project and exam. The report itself ran to about 19 pages, but because I have such an exciting life, I decided to try and do a 2-page summary that includes key tips and take always.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should read the full report, but I doubt most students will, so here’s the next best thing… (If nothing else, you should see that I’m basing my opinion on specific quotations with the report!)

Tips from the Politics and Society Chief Examiner Report 2018

The biggest relief is that they really are looking for quality over quantity!!!

Also, bear in mind that this is just my take on the examiner’s report, based on what I’ve seen my own students do well and poorly at throughout the year.

My suggestion would be to scan through it on the morning of the exam, just to refresh you memory and get your essay-writing priorities in order…

Best of luck on Tuesday!!!!

Dr J (as Brendan O’Sullivan in Gorey CS insists on calling me!!!)

Dealing with the Data-Based Question

Just one final bit of advice for students about the somewhat tricky ‘DBQ’. One of the main problems experienced by the students last year was uncertainty about how long their answers should be for each section. This was made particularly problematic due to the fact that there was no indication beside each question as to how many marks each individual question was worth.

You ‘General Rule’ here should be to be guided by the number of lines available. I should also say that the latest advice is NOT to write in the spaces outside the lines, for fear that they won’t be read by the S.E.C.’s scanners (and write in either Blue or Black pen). If you need to add additional material (and if you’re time management allows you to do so), you can do so in the additional pages at the back of the booklet (*making sure that you properly label your answers).

If you want to download my best attempt to outline a useful approach to the final questions (DBQ section F), which is worth 40 marks (15 minutes of writing time), click the link to access a one-page PDF with a sample answer and some other general guidelines and suggestions. (****Update: Autumn 2019 – In the 2019 exam, the Marking Scheme changed, making this section worth 50 marks, not 40. It also stipulated that the marks would be divided along the lines of 30-20 as seen here: DBQ Long Answer Marking Scheme

***The big ‘Caveat‘ (warning) here, is that ‘This is how they did it last year – the Examiners might assign the marks differently this summer.’ That said, all we can do is deal with the evidence we have! If I was answering a DBQ question on this particular problem, I’d be quick to note that we have a ‘Sample Size’ of just one data point, which makes it next to impossible to make any sweeping statements.***

Best of luck on Tuesday!


Don’t forget about “Exam Strategy”

Hello All,

One very short blog post that might help students as they face into the final week before the exam. As with every Leaving Cert exam, it’s important to maximize your grade. The quickest way to shed marks unnecessarily is to get your timing wrong.

So why not download this quick one-page guide to help with Exam Strategy and Timing, which even includes the exact time it will read on the clock that you should move on to the next question! (This isn’t the only way to do it, but it is one reliable way to do it!)

Remember, it’s notHow much should I write?” for that answer, it’s “How long should I spend on that question?”. The answer is ALWAYS determined by the number of marks allocated to the question. (There’s an outside possibility that they won’t include mark breakdowns in the Data-Based Question again this year). If they go with last year’s allocation, the final questions (2F) will be worth 40 marks.

And finally, more so than in any other exam, the Politics and Society examiners are looking for ‘Quality’ more than ‘Quantity’…

Best of luck next week.


Episode 7 – Amnesty and Activism is LIVE!!!

Just in time for the students facing into this year’s exam, Episode 7 – Amnesty and Activism is LIVE!!!!

In this episode we’re joined by Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty International Ireland for a wide-ranging discussion of activism, human rights, the role of NGOs, and the media in modern society. Colm’s insights are not only fascinating, but incredibly relevant to the goals of the Pol Soc course. I even get him to give his two cents on a few of our specific debate topics.

We’re also joined by Beth Doherty, a Transition Year student from Alexandra College, Dublin to discuss her involvement with the “Friday’s for Future” climate strikes. Find the ‘Episode Notes’ for this podcast on the website https://polsocpodcast.com/episode-notes/

You can listen to the episode here:

Episode Notes and further resources, including how to get involved with the organizations mentioned, will be posted shortly (It’s a busy time of year, after all!)



Episode 6 – ‘Brexit for Beginners’ is LIVE

Sixth years are preparing for, or have just sat, their Politics and Society mocks. They’ve just been asked to deal with the whole course in two and a half hours for the very first time. Everyone’s stressed and can’t wait for the midterm to gather their wits and stare down the run into Easter. It’s just that time of year…

So, why not sit back and get a handle on at least one part of the course with the next installment of the Pol-Soc Podcast! In this episode I’m joined by Professor John O’Brennan, the Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration at Maynooth University. He helps us to get to grips with the broad challenges that Brexit poses to the EU, the UK, and Ireland. This is NOT a comprehensive analysis of every facet of Brexit, but is designed to give Leaving Cert Students, previously unfamiliar with European politics, a good grounding on some of the big issues of which they should be aware. It also hopes to frame discussions around Brexit in a way that makes it useful for them in their terminal exam in June by showing how aspects of the discussion relate to the key requirements of the course.

Why not try out the “Key Thinker Quizzes” that help you get to grips with some of the key terminology. It’s a great way to ‘bed in’ some of the more detailed and specific aspects of the course! If you’d like to support the website and podcast with a ‘teeny-tiny’ donation to help cover some of the costs, I’d be grateful for any support that you could give here. You’d be surprised how the costs add up. (Sad Face Emoji… that I have yet to figure out how to import into a blog post!)

In the meantime, if you find this useful, help me spread the work. You can follow along on my twitter feed @khpolsoc where I’ll be circulating relevant articles, videos, and highlighting the experiences of some of my own students, or use your own wits and social media to let your fellow Students & Teachers know about the resource. I’ll be updating the “Episode Notes” page in the next few day, adding lots of other additional resources for students who want to go that step further. These episodes were always meant to be a starting point for your own investigations, not just and end in themselves…

I hope you enjoy this episode, and find it useful. As always, all (constructive) feedback is most welcome!



Episode 5 – EU Institutions is live!

Hi All,

Happy New Year to all my subscribers and any ‘randomers’ who have stumbled onto the website! Episode 5 – EU Institutions is now Live!!! In this episode, I’m joined by my colleague Ms Vicki Malcolm, a teacher of European Studies here in The King’s Hospital, to explore the main institutions of the EU – the Parliament, Commission, and Council. I chat with students about their experience of the ‘Euroscola’ competition which won them a trip to the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, and get a valuable insider’s perspective on the Parliament from Brian Hayes MEP. I spend a bit of time giving a very brief outline of the EU’s historical development and try to help students get their heads around the idea of the ‘Qualified Majority Voting’ system of the EU. All in all, it’s a jam packed episode. We’re already getting lots of positive feedback about the episode, particularly the ‘Listen Along’ worksheet. Make sure you give it a listen and spread the word far and wide!

You’ll also notice a few additions to the website. I’ve uploaded a number of new ‘Key Thinker Quizzes’ and have updated ‘useful podcasts’ to include some suggestions from other teachers. My favourite of those is Kathleen Lynch’s interview on the “Reboot Republic” Podcast. It’s really relevant to lots of our course material and it provides an excellent example to students as to how to use data to support their arguments. There’s also a new Thomas Hobbes revision ‘notes’ sheet to help students to see the contemporary relevance of Hobbes and to offer suggestions on how to write about him coherently.

The editing is already underway on the next episode on ‘Brexit’ and I hope to have that finished in the next few weeks (barring all of life’s usual disasters getting in the way!). Future episodes that are already in the pipeline include an interview with Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty International Ireland and our second ‘Key Thinker’ podcast, looking at the life and work of John Locke with I’m hoping to record in the coming weeks. There’s so much to do!

Finally, if you have found these podcasts useful as either a teacher or a student and you’d like to make a very small donation (I’m suggesting €3 – the price of a cup of coffee!) then I’d love if you could do so here. I really don’t mind working for free (if I think it will help students and teachers), but as things stand there’s a “not insignificant” cost associated with paying for domain hosting and for a SoundCloud account that can continue to make sure that I can upload sufficient material for the podcast to be of long-term value to students. I’d really appreciate any support you can give, but if you’d even have to think twice about a donation, then keep your money! As of right now there have been over 1,300 downloads of the five episodes I’ve completed (I’m as surprised as you are, trust me!). Help me keep it free for the students that really need it!

I hope ye enjoy the episode. I’d love to hear any (constructive) feedback you might have, and particularly to hear about any other useful resources that I could add to the ‘Episode Notes’.



Episode 4 is Live!!!!

Well, after an enforced break that came about due to the “Triple Whamy” of baby number 4 arriving, finishing up a PhD, and heading up PASTAI (the Politics and Society Teachers’ Association of Ireland), we’re back up and running!

I hope that you find this episode, which focuses of the Council of Europe and human rights useful, whether you’re a teacher or a student! There’s tons of extra resources in the show’s “Episode Notes” which can be reached by following that link.

You might also want to check out some of the other new features on the site including a list of other podcasts that are directly relevant to the course. They’ll be updated as I find more, but if you can think of any other podcasts that I missed, please let me know!

The final new feature is our new “Key Thinker” Quizzes. These are ‘self-correcting’ Google Forms quizzes that students can take to help with their own revision. They can be taken multiple times, and offer immediate feedback. Again, I’ve got a handful done so far, but I’ll be adding more in the near future.

That’s about it for the moment, but (as always) if you have any ‘constructive’ feedback, I’m all ears!


Dr Jerome Devitt!!! (that’s probably the only time I’ll use my new title, so indulge me this time!)

Logo Poll

Well folks, we have selected 4 finalist logos for you to vote for. We would really appreciate if you took the time to vote HERE.

FYI, episode 4 is in the works and we will be looking at European Instituion

Here is a sneak peek of the logos that we have selected:

podcast logo comp copy



Episode 3 is Live!

A huge thanks to Anne-Marie McNally and Ms Susan Leahy for their help in making this episode, which tracks both National politics in the Dáil and the smaller-scale world of Student Councils.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Students – don’t forget to check out the Episode Notes for help to try and digest the material covered in this episode. You’ll find a ‘Listen Along’ worksheet, as well as links to a few different articles that tease out some more of the ideas we discussed in more detail.

Also don’t forget about our Logo Design competition!