Citizenship Projects – Online Activism

In recent weeks I was delighted to be contacted by a few groups of student who are working away busy on their Citizenship Projects. In particular, some groups have been working on ways in which “online activist movements are contributing to political change in today’s world.”

The range of work that they’ve produced is very broad. Some students produced websites with questionnaires to try and assess the impact of their work (very useful when they are trying to write up the “outcomes” of their projects in final part of Section B.

What I found particularly interesting about the range of work that has been sent to me is the range of topics and how broad the students’ engagement has been with multiple parts of the course. It’s amazing to see the scope of their interest – everything from gender-based protests in Iran (SDG 5/CEDAW/Patriarchy), to Irish Language Activism (Irish National Identity/Diversity of Language) to the group work comparing things like #BLM, the War in Ukraine, US Gun policy and Environmental issues and youth participation in “Fridays for Future”.

It’s such a privilege to be able to facilitate the work and engagement of these young people!

It would be great if people could share and/or comment on the work below. The students can then use those comments (and constructive criticisms) to further evaluate their work… It’ll only take you a second!

Online Activism Group Blogs (with surveys to complete)

Iranian Women’s Protests Blogs

Irish Language Online Activism – AchtAnois blogs

#BLM & #Metoo

Vox Digitalis

Anti-Refugee Protests Presentation @AlexJakePolitic

Refugees Welcome – @AlexJakePolitic

If any other students want to send on work (as a pdf) for me to share here, I’m delighted to facilitate them and can share the “page analytics” with them before they finalize their projects over the next month.

JD – 29/3/23


Update Fatigue – with an “Electoral Commission” comprehension…!

I’ve just listened to the always fascinating David Runciman (formerly of the “Talking Politics” Podcast) being interviewed by the Irish Times’s Hugh Linehan on their own politics podcast.

One particular point that Runciman made during the interview is something that will almost certainly resonate with Pol-Soc teachers (and students) around the country. I’m paraphrasing here, but he said something to the effect of “not missing the need to constantly stay up-to-date” on weekly events (though he did miss the cut and thrust of the excitement of the podcast.

This is something that I have felt very acutely over the last 6 years in my own Pol Soc class. Initially, I worried that if I wasn’t on top of every breaking story, that my students would lose confidence in me. Since then I’ve mellowed somewhat, and have occasionally leaned on the old teacher trope of “That’s a great question – tell me what you find out about it by Monday“. (And I’ve genuinely been interested to see what they come back with, it should be added…)

But there are areas of our course where staying up to speed is essential. Given the prominence of the Irish Electoral and Governmental system on our course, the outcomes of the current Electoral Commission will render lots of the numbers that we tend to have rattling around in our head! I’ll have to shift the numbers 166, 160, and 158 from the ‘Politics’ part of my brain to the ‘History’ part – a real inconvenience.

To that end, to help teachers and students keep current, here’s an adapted article from the Irish Examiner (with suitable questions in the various DBQ categories) that might make the first day back after the mid-term break a little easier. (I’ll be doing a JCT in-service day, so there’s no hope for me..)

Next Dáil to have up to 20 additional TDs – Comprehension from Irish Examiner Feb 2023

Better use it soon, as it’ll be out of date by next year, obviously! (and I don’t want the 40 minutes it took to format it into one single page to be wasted!)

JD 15/2/23

John Hume – “Ireland’s Greatest?” worksheet

The Life and Legacy of John Hume – Ireland’s Greatest worksheet – PDF

The Life and Legacy of John Hume – Ireland’s Greatest worksheet – MS Word

When you’re teaching both Junior and Senior History and L.C. Politics & Society there are inevitably lots of overlaps. Next week I’ll be starting into the LC History case study on the Coleraine University Controversy, but the overlaps with Pol-Soc’s Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, and a deeper understanding of the Northern Ireland political landscape obviously create lots of opportunities for synergy.

I’ll also be starting into the Junior Cycle History Learning Outcome 2.5 – “Identify the Course, Course, and Consequences of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’  and their impact on North-South and Anglo-Irish Relations” with my 3rd years. With that course being so ‘full’ and time pressure being an evitable constraint on virtually everything I try to do with my third years (in particular), I’ve decided to approach this topic through the lens of the Life and Legacy of John Hume. It doesn’t cover everything, but when used in conjunction with their textbook and other resourses, Miriam O’Callaghan’s documentary “Ireland’s Greatest?” from a few years back, makes for a very accessible approach to the topic.

But with JC History, there’s also the need to “Box Smart”, so I’ve included suggestions about how to link the topic to other parts of the JC Subject Specification too, particularly (but not exclusively) to L.O. 1.9 & 2.2, but it could easily be used with Learning Outcome 1.2 “consider contentious or controversial issues in history from more than one perspective and discuss the historical roots of a contentious or controversial issue or theme in the contemporary world.” Although, I have to confess, I’ve often struggled to illustrate to junior students how content relevant to one part of the JC History course can comfortably be applied to other potential exam questions. They really seem to struggle with the possible language of those questions (shrug emoji)…

I’ve found in the past that focusing on a key figure in history can be really helpful for students with very little prior knowledge of events in Northern Ireland, which seems increasingly the case as time goes on (or as I get older and older!?!). The documentary is available on YouTube (in 4 parts), but there’s one slight blip in the break up of the sections, but I’ve indicated on the handout how to get around that.

So what I did, to try and make this more productive for students, is to build a video worksheet that allows students to draw information directly from the documentary, but also allows room for ‘extended writing‘ pieces (things that might be 10 or 15 mark questions in the Junior Cycle exam), along with questions around forming an historical judgment, gerrymandering, pictures matching exercises and creating a timeline of Hume’s life.

I know it’s my personal opinion, but it’s hard to be anything but full of admiration for Hume’s life, with all of its struggles and successes. It can be a real joy to expose students to his ideas and help them to assess his impact.

I’m fairly sure that the worksheet (with some slight alterations) could also be useful for introducing the context in which the LC History University Controversy case study could be introduced, and could be used selectively for Pol-Soc classes on Northern Ireland’s political system. I present it above as a pdf and MS Word file, so that you can adapt it yourself for your own needs and your class’s own ability levels. I’ll also post some sample answers to the questions (when I get around to it), so that the (increasingly high number of) students who are absent from school these days can complete it (and mark their responses!) at home.

As always, any constructive criticisms and suggestions are most welcome!

My sincerest happy and healthy New Year’s wishes to you all.


PS There’s a link to the YouTube video in the handout, but here it is, just in case.

Surviving the last two days…

With Covid, RSV and Flu hitting hard, there are lots of students and staff (including yours truly) absent. So to help you get through the last day and a half of term you might get some use out of my History of Christmas handout (in pdf and MS Word so you can edit it for your own needs) ‘History of Christmas Matching – Chronology – Article – Editorial – and poems (pdf) History of Christmas Matching – Chronology – Article – Editorial – and poems (MS Word) Not that I’m notoriously sneaky, or anything, but this has exercise that explore not only the actual history of the holidays, but link in with lots of key skills that students need:

·      Matching texts with photos and cartoons

·      Creating a chronology

·      Looking at editorials and creative writing

·      Concrete poetry

·      Academic historical writing (with comprehension and critical judgment questions attached).

It’s almost like I’m so used to trying to layer learning outcomes into everything I do, that I don’t even notice that I’m doing it any more… Anyway, it might get you through that 40-minute class with 40% of your students present (and still do something meaningful with those that are there). Happy Holidays. JD

Leaving Cert History RSR CPD Materials

I was delighted to be asked by the Cork HTA to deliver an online CPD session designed to help new and returning Leaving Cert History teachers approach the “Special Topic” or RSR (Research Study Report) with their students.

Below are some of the supporting documents and handouts that I use selectively with students. I include them as pdfs and MS Word Docs so that you can edit them easily for your own use – every class is different, after all, and I find myself tinkering with this material year-on-year.

Cork HTA – LC Hist RSR CPD PowerPoint Presentation

MS Word of Gridding your Extended Essay Blank

PDF of Gridding your Extended Essay Blank

MS Word Doc of RSR Research Skills and Footnotes

PDF of RSR Research Skills and Footnotes

Other useful links include the PDST documents that were provided in 2013 (I think, but possibly earlier). I wouldn’t use all of it, but the checklist on the final page is dead handy. You can find that page here (I suggest downloading those documents straight away, because sometimes those links go dead inexplicably). *The sample booklet on that page is in the old format, so don’t give that one to students!!!

Of course, Patrick Hickey’s YouTube videos are always accessible for students, though I’m not sure if the video on the Evaluation of Sources has been updated to take into account the expanded space (2-pages) that students now have for that process.

For new teachers, it’s probably also worth digging into the 2017 SEC Chief Examiner’s Report for History. It’s a little old now, but virtually all of what it says is still relevant.

And as I’m sure most teachers are aware, there are other useful RSR resources on the Cork HTA website…!

I hope that these bits and piece will be of use to some people, in what I think is one of the most important written tasks that any LC student completes.

JD – 10/10/2022

Come Study with Me!

After receiving countless emails each year from students around the country who can’t study Politics & Society because that subject isn’t offered in their schools, (or where the existing classes were over-subscribed) I’ve finally worked out a way to make this possible. I’ve found it quite dispiriting that I haven’t previously been in a position to help those highly motivated students who have a real interest in and aptitude for the new subject, which I’ve long felt to be a real game changer when it comes to education in Ireland.

Rather than just the normal “grinds” class that I’ve been delivering in the Institute of Education in Leeson Street for the last 4 years, I’ve teamed up with their tech team to offer a chance for students to study the subject online over a one-year period that gets as close as possible to the experience as being in a ‘bricks and mortar’ secondary school classroom.

It can’t replicate the in-person experience completely, but the approach we will take is designed to maximize the flexible opportunities presented by the online environment, while trying to minimize some of the drawbacks that we all experienced during our periods of ‘lockdown learning’.

This is a class designed for highly motivated students who want to study with the best materials possible, but who are also willing to supplement classroom activities with detailed, consistent, independent learning.

What will this involve?

  • A weekly 2-hour class on Tuesday evenings
  • In class discussion, debate, and interaction
  • Weekly assessments, writing tasks, and feedback
  • Periodic ‘on-site’ sessions in Dublin focused on preparation for the Citizenship Project (submitted around the Easter Holidays), essay writing, and data-handling
  • “Christmas” and “Mock” exams with feedback and reporting similar to a regular class
  • Essay preparation, Exam Analysis, Study Tips and Strategy

Class participation, debate, discussion are central to this process, particularly for students who need to develop their ability to respond coherently and authentically to discursive essay titles in a pressurised “exam setting”. This won’t be a sit back and relax kind of class!

For more details, such as the schedule of classes and assessment information, follow this link to the Institute’s website where you can take a sample class, visit their FAQs, and book in for the year.

***Please bear in mind that there will be some ‘terms and conditions’ associated with this course, particularly the need to have a cooperating teacher in your school with whom I can coordinate the submission of your projects and written confirmation from your school’s Principal that it will be possible for you to sit the final exam during the exam period next June.***

Combined “Listen-Along” Guides

I’ve compiled all 13 of the listen along guides into one pdf that you can download below. My hope is that this will make it a little easier for students (and teachers) to keep track of their work, and even to refer back to the episodes when you need qualitative and quantitative evidence for essays.

The document is only about 50 pages long, so should be manageable on school photocopiers.

If I do ever get around to more episodes (it has been very busy lately!) I can add them as I go.

I hope they’re of use in the new school year.

PolSoc Podcast Listen Along Guides – Combined

Best of luck with the return to school later this month!


Hot off the presses!

Well, after a very busy year and a lot of head scratching, my latest offering “Dealing with Data – the Essential guide to Data-Based Question in Politics and Society” has finally made its way into the world. I’m very grateful to the other teachers who helped me to get this from the initial concept to the finished product.

The main goal with the book is to try and make teachers and students’ lives just a little bit easier in the classroom by having as many key concepts linked to sample data-based questions as possible. It’s designed to be both exam practice and building up key skills for essays & project work.

In there you’ll find:


·      Key Concepts, terminology, and methodology ideas and class exercises

·      16 Sample Data-Based Questions (4 OL, 12 HL)

·      Links to regularly updated data sources that are tailored to the Pol-Soc course

·      and some ‘exemplar’ answers to try and provide some guidance to students as to how they can approach different question types.

As always, I’m all ears when it comes to any suggestions and (constructive) feedback. Hopefully, people will find it useful in the classroom.

There’s also a special promotion: Buy ‘Dealing with Data’ and ‘A Little Bit of Media Analysis’ for €39.99 when you use code “BUNDLE” (ALL CAPS) at checkout!

JD 18/07/2022

data headshot pic


The French Presidential Elections – A Multi-Strand Case Study (Boxing Smart before the exam!)

Continuing with the overall theme of the resources on this site, here’s a “classroom ready” handout on the recent French Presidential Elections. Now, I’m obviously aware that case studies like this will quickly become obsolete, but what I’m keen to focus on is the need to try and equip students with materials that touch on multiple ‘stands’ of our course (like the Indian Farmer Protests, which luckily – from the perspective of the students, not the farmers!- is still ongoing). To that end, the first page of the handout is an attempt to link the topic to 8-9 different areas on the course where even a brief reference to the data that students can gather around the outcome of the election could be applied.

I’ll include a pdf and MS Word version so that you can tinker with it to make it useful for your own students in their particular context…

French Elections 2022 Case Study – PDF

French Elections 2022 Case Study – MS Word

Maybe it’ll be useful as an “alternative/comparative” perspective paragraph in an essay on “Selecting an Executive”, maybe a brief reference to “Les Gillets Jaune” will link in with protest movements and ‘consent of the governed’, maybe the impact of globalization on French de-industrialization that has left many former blue-collar workers disillusioned with neoliberalism with be used as evidence in a “Globalization and Localization” essay for Thomas Hylland Eriksen or a brief link to Kathleen Lynch, maybe it’ll just be a single line in an essay on French identity and the impact of migration….

But for all those different areas, they’ll still need to have well-sourced content that they can evaluate and engage with. And in all cases, some hard and fast data can only strengthen their responses.

A final exercise that you might enjoy doing, but which I haven’t included on the handout would be attempting to ask the students how they think each of the 17 Key Thinkers would have responded to the result of the elections (rounds 1 and 2). I’d say Marx would be pretty disappointed that Jean-Luc Mélenchon didn’t make it to the run off!!!!

I hope you find the resource useful and that it might spark students into a broader engagement with some of the sub-headings in the multiple strands of the course.

Best of luck with the run in to the exams – Remember, anyone can hang on for four and a half weeks!

JD 4/5/22

A “One-Essay” Exam – recalibrating students’ expectations

I know that the site has been somewhat quiet recently. All I can say is sorry. Things have been exceptionally busy of late. I’d love to have been producing more materials, but I also know that I have to find some space to not completely burn out (again…)

But one topic that has animated me somewhat in recent weeks (since the return to just ONE essay in the exam) is the idea of how to recalibrate the students’ expectations as to what level of depth and detail is required. Speaking to a few other Pol Soc teachers recently, I would say that this seems to be an issue in a few different classrooms. Some of my students now seem to think that the essay they write in June has to be about 6-8 pages with the accompanying level of detail. (i.e. twice the length and depth as before…). It was all I could do to dissuade them!

Now, I clearly am not an SEC examiner, but I have developed a mild skill in “reverse engineering” the application of SEC marking schemes over the last few years. So what might that kind of insights might that approach yield…?

One of the student questions that I struggled to answer over the years is “What does a H1 essay look like in this subject?” Well, last year I had a truly amazing student who got 99½% in the exam (full marks in every other section and 98/100 in the exam), so I now have a pretty good idea of what a “near perfect exam essay” looks like. Please note, that I’m not saying it’s a perfect essay, but rather that it’s pretty clear that it touches on all of the requirements of the exam essay marking scheme. I also say “a” near perfect essay (there’ll be lots of ways to skin that particular cat…)

I present it below (both blank and annotated with my own comments as I have done previously) NOT to say that students should learn it by heart, but rather to illustrate the ways in which the approach I suggested in a previous PASTAI CPD session in January 2022 (about addressing the “Is Ireland a Patriarchy?” question) were somewhat vindicated. Virtually all of the material that the student presented in the essay were drawn from class activities and combined with the research of her group members and herself.

98 per cent Feminism SEC Exam essay 2021 Blank

98 per cent Feminism SEC Exam essay 2021 Annotated

But more importantly, I’d suggested students look at the structure of the essay. What would I point out to them in a general sense?

  • This student took the extra time to PLAN here essay more precisely than she might otherwise have had the time to do. (Remember, 30% of the marks are for the INTRO and COHESION – i.e. structural factors)
  • It’s 4½ pages (meaning that the don’t have to just throw the kitchen sink at the question)
  • See how the student balanced her knowledge of the Key Thinkers and their Terminology with the other aspects of the essay
  • The student balanced the use of Qualitative and Quantitative evidence in different paragraphs as she felt appropriate
  • She uses credible, relevant, and recent sources at a number of different points
  • Each paragraph has a personal perspective that is appropriate to the content she has discussed.

And most importantly:

  • She always demonstrates how the evidence she provides can be framed as a direct response to the specific terms of the question asked…

I know that this is a lot to juggle in an essay, but as I always tell my students: “In Pol-Soc, it’s not what you know, it’s what you can DO with what you know.” Obviously, this must be grounded in detailed knowledge of the topics, concepts, and case studies, but then she uses that material and ‘pivots’ it to address the terms of the question.

I was delighted to see this student (who really was exceptional) get rewarded for what looks like a really insightful essay. I find that so encouraging.

It’s also worth saying that I know for a fact that not all my students engaged with the original task with the same focus and alacrity when we covered that Learning Outcome in 5th year, but at least I get to stick to my own version of the ‘Hippocratic Oath’ – Primo non Nocere – “First, do no harm”. In other words, I may not have done everything right in the classroom (I doubt I ever will), but as least I wasn’t so bad as to stop a great student achieving her potential…

Anyway, I hope the essay is useful and that it gives you and your students some insight into what the top end of the grading looks like in a “one-essay exam” (remembering that a sample size of ONE is pretty limited!)


Jerome 7/3/22

PS – I am, of course, most grateful to the student in question who was happy for me to circulate her work if I felt it would help other teachers and students. I hope it does…