|Sociology Central has existed on the web, in one form or another, since about 1995 (give or take a couple of years either way) and during this time it's undergone a number of design changes (the web archive has pages from 2000 onwards if you're interested). In the early days it was also hosted on a "free ISP server" and all record of this period is, I think, probably safely expunged from the record. The current site is periodically saved in the British Museum Internet Archive (but since I've lost the URL for this you'll have to search for it yourself if you want to take a look).|
|1. At its most basic, Resource-Based Learning is a method of teaching that involves students taking more responsibility for the learning process than is normally the case with traditionally-based methods of teaching. As such, it's related to the concepts of Student Centred Learning (SCL) and Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and, if you're really interested in the theoretical basis of these ideas and approaches there's a huge amount of stuff on the Web to explore (just search on "Resource Based Learning").||2. This site is not, however, aimed at developing this general debate. Rather, it exists to provide materials that can be used as part of an SCL / PBL / RBL (don't you just love TLA's?) approach to teaching and learning. In short, it's mainly a source of A-level materials that might enable SCL techniques to be applied in the classroom.|
|3. For example, one way of applying RBL (as part of an overall SCL strategy) is to provide students with packs of written study materials which they use, individually and co-operatively, inside and outside the classroom. These packs take the form of Modules (such as "Theory and Methods") which are broken-down into smaller Units (such as "Sampling Techniques", "Primary Methods of Research" and so forth). Each Unit contains a mixture of information and exercises that the student works through, at their own pace. Notes can be taken and, by completing the exercises (marked by the teacher when a Unit has been completed), the student is able to demonstrate they have understood what they have learnt||4. This site provides teachers and students with this kind of material. It also contains examples of lesson plans that can be used to teach particular areas of a course, mainly because Resource-Based Learning can, by its very nature, involve a mixture of different teaching and learning styles (a particular theory, for example, might be appropriately introduced using a whole-class, group-learning, technique centred around a particular problem that needs to be solved). In addition, materials to help students cope with projects, revision, essay-writing, etc. have been provided, under the general heading of a "Sociological Toolbox". The materials provided will be added-to on a regular (?) basis and some indication of what is on the verge of becoming available will be given in the "downloads" section.|
|5. In general terms, however, this method of teaching and learning changes the role of teachers and students in the classroom:|
Teachers, for example, are not the focal-point of all activity in the
classroom, which means they are free to help individual students with their work
as and when required. This allows, for example, a teacher to target
students who are slower and academically weaker with extra support and
RBL also has the advantage, for the teacher, of encouraging students to work outside the classroom since, with careful planning and a reasonable level of organisation, students always have materials "in hand".
Combined with a "problem-solving" approach to teaching and learning, this means students gain a greater depth of understanding mainly because they are working - and hence thinking - for more of the time than is normally the case with traditional forms of teaching and learning.
Students, on the other hand, are not tied to the teacher and the rest
of the class. This means they are able to work at their own pace (although
a suggested timetable for the completion of Units will probably be given) and
can request the individual attention of the teacher if required. In some
instances, students may be allowed to leave the room for breaks without either
disrupting the class or missing any information.
Additionally, if used thoughtfully and with consideration for others, students who like to listen to music while they work can do so on personal stereos since their attention is not constantly focused on what the teacher is telling the whole class. Finally, where a Modular course is being followed the student has an increased range of choices about which Modules they want to study. Different students with different interests can, therefore, study different Modules. This, is not always possible using whole-class methods of teaching where everyone has to study the same Module at much the same time.
|6. RBL does involve extra administration work and cost. Materials have to be copied and distributed to students "as and when they require them" and some form of record-keeping is also required (a basic system I use is a chart that identifies the student with a list of all the Units for a particular Module. Two columns are used, one to record the Units a student has taken to work on and the other to record whether or not they have completed a particular Unit). The marking of student work also tends to be more haphazard than with traditional teaching methods, mainly because I find that large numbers of students hand-in completed Units for marking at the same time.|
What I've just briefly outlined is one way of using RBL
materials. It's not intended to be prescriptive
and there are many possible variations on this basic theme (as you will discover
if you dig deeper into the theoretical basis of SCL). For example, it is
possible to use resource-based learning packs to supplement
whole-class teaching. This is especially useful if you want to retain the
element of whole-class discussions that can be an effective way
of getting students to think about the information they generate and use.
However you decide to use the materials on offer here, the important thing, from my point-of-view is that you use them - there's not, after all, a great deal of point to setting-up a resource-based learning site if no-one uses the resources on offer...