2010 HSC Notes from the Marking Centre — Society and Culture
- The Personal Interest Project
- Written examination
- Section I – Social and cultural continuity and change
- Section II – Depth studies
- Section III – Depth studies
This document has been produced for the teachers and candidates of the Stage 6 course in Society and Culture. It contains comments on candidate responses to the 2010 Higher School Certificate examination, providing an overview of candidate performance while outlining the relative strengths and weaknesses of the candidature in the written examination and the Personal Interest Project (PIP).
This document should be read in conjunction with the relevant syllabus, the 2010 Higher School Certificate examination, the 2010 marking guidelines and other support documents that have been developed by the Board of Studies to assist in the teaching and learning of Society and Culture.
Candidates need to be aware that the marks allocated to the question and the answer space (where this is provided on the examination paper), are guides to the length of the required response. A longer response will not in itself lead to higher marks. Writing far beyond the indicated space may reduce the time available for answering other questions.
Teachers and candidates should be aware that examiners might ask questions that address the syllabus outcomes in a manner that requires candidates to respond by integrating the knowledge, understanding and skills they developed through studying the course. This reflects the fact that the knowledge, understanding and skills developed through the study of discrete sections should accumulate to a more comprehensive understanding than might be described in each section separately.
The Personal Interest Project
Teachers and candidates are reminded that in the PIP, the central material is limited to 4000 words and must have a continuity and/or change focus in addition to the cross-cultural focus.
Outstanding projects demonstrated a high standard of academic research and uniqueness of topic, design or execution. These projects provided a rich analysis of the chosen topic with an in-depth, sophisticated synthesis of their findings. Course concepts were thoroughly integrated throughout and all components clearly aligned with syllabus requirements for the project. Generally, outstanding projects were integral to Society and Culture concepts and used quality academic resources that showed clear and appropriate annotations. Outstanding projects demonstrated a synthesis between personal experience and public knowledge.
Candidates are reminded that each PIP is to be a topic of the candidate’s own choice, be related to the course, use appropriate methodologies, and integrate cross-cultural and continuity and/or change perspectives. Candidates should choose topics that allow for original design and ones that allow for a synthesis between public and personal knowledge.
Better projects demonstrated an effective research process, integrating both primary and secondary research findings, appropriate writing, editing and synthesis. The end result of this process was a high quality synthesis of the various PIP components into a coherent, well-structured research project. Better projects integrated research findings, cross-cultural and continuity and/or change focus and the methodologies chosen throughout. These PIPs made explicit the cross-cultural and continuity and/or change perspectives. In better projects, candidates used their analysis on continuity and/or change consistently and integrated these ideas throughout the project. The ideas from the introduction flowed logically and developmentally through the central material and were reflected in the judgements identified in the conclusion. The log of the project provided a concise overview of the candidate’s research development with a reflective analysis of methodologies that also identified potential bias, where appropriate, and critical judgement of their research findings. A good log is a summary of the development of the final product and not just diarised entries.
Weaker projects were often limited by the selection of a very broad topic or a topic that proved difficult to research over a sustained period. These projects often dealt with topics without acknowledging bias in research or personal views and sometimes dealt with issues that had ethical considerations which were not addressed. The central material was often descriptive and summarised material from secondary sources about an issue without sufficient judgement regarding research findings. Many weaker projects also relied overly on the internet without sufficient acknowledgement of sources. Carrying out ‘surveys off the net’ does not constitute primary research and there is a trend towards using the internet as the main source of secondary research. Log entries were often calendar entries that were simplistic overviews of each month rather than a developmental analysis or reflection on the research process, and resources were limited and poorly annotated. Weaker projects showed a poor understanding and integration of the cross-cultural and continuity and/or change components.
Candidates’ choice of topic
The ethics of some research topics need to be carefully considered by teachers and candidates. These ethical considerations also need to be considered as candidates conduct their research methodologies on their chosen topics. Candidates should carefully read page 9 of Assessment and Reporting in Society and Culture Stage 6:
If a student is considering a Personal Interest Project topic or method of research that might be controversial or possibly unethical, the student should discuss the topic selection with the teacher or the school’s principal.
The choice of topic should reflect a Society and Culture course investigation, not a topical narrative on a social issue. Candidates selecting very personal issues on which to base their research were challenged to sufficiently relate these to syllabus content and course concepts and appropriate social issues. Personal experience is appropriate to the project but should be balanced with substantial public knowledge. However, there were still many candidates who selected large and unfocused topics, with an overemphasis on topics related to adolescence. This limited candidates’ options to pursue a clear, testable hypothesis. Such projects were often subjective and relied on unsupported generalisations. Candidates also must be aware of the guidelines in relation to the submission of student projects, and understand that a project completed for another course cannot be submitted, in part or total, as a personal interest project. Active teacher guidance in the project proposal and supervision of progress reports on the project can assist candidates to avoid inappropriate topic choices and/or research methods.
The log should be based on the student’s diary, but the submitted log needs to be more than a list of events and occurrences in chronological order. It should be a statement of reflection; how and why the research took place and the effectiveness of the overall research process. It is also appropriate to include some discussion of the key goals of the research and the evaluations of the research process.
The log must be no longer than 500 words and should not be a rushed afterthought. Candidates should be reminded that the log is generally the first component of the project that is marked but is frequently one of the weakest aspects.
Presentation and structure
There are several important aspects to the presentation of the project (see pages 46 to 48 of the syllabus). Projects should be printed in either Times New Roman or Arial font, in 12-point font size, with 1.5 line spacing. The candidate’s name or the name of their school must never appear in the project. Graphs, tables, photographs and diagrams need to be labelled and discussed. Further, the treatment of aspects of the project such as the cross-cultural and continuity and/or change components, concepts and methodologies should not be located in separate sections. These should be integrated into the overall text and discussion of the project.
Another significant issue is that many candidates do not sufficiently integrate their ideas. A common problem is that candidates make no clear links between chapters. The ideas and concepts that should be the essential message of a project need to develop and flow in a logical and sustained manner.
The ethics of research and the issue of plagiarism are strong considerations in assessing each project. This is particularly important with the increased use of the internet as a research tool. When candidates discuss the ideas of others, they should try to synthesise these ideas into their own discussions. It is vital to acknowledge the works of others by using referencing, for example by using the Harvard system. Greater acknowledgement of sources is needed in the annotated bibliography with comments on its usefulness and validity to the research presented.
Many candidates presented projects or components, such as the introduction or log, that were significantly over the word limit. The word count is clearly specified, and candidates are disadvantaged if their projects are over the word limit. This also applies to the use of appendixes. Candidates are not advantaged by, and in fact should be discouraged from, including multiple copies of questionnaires and other evidence that primary research was in fact undertaken during the completion of the project. Any information deemed significant to the project should generally be located within the central material. By including such information in the central material there is greater potential for it to be more effectively integrated.
Best practice is to integrate the methodologies used throughout the central material. A separate chapter for each methodology used is not an ideal model. It is vitally important to discuss the appropriateness, validity and possible biases of each methodology. Too many candidates did not interpret and analyse the data they collected from primary and secondary sources, and there was uncritical reliance on internet sources by many candidates.
Better projects demonstrated an understanding of the limitations of particular research methodologies. In relation to particular methodologies, there was a range of candidates who confused content analysis and secondary research, and questionnaire and survey. These are distinct methodologies and need to be identified and applied correctly. When candidates indicate they are using content analysis and statistical analysis, the source to be analysed should be made apparent.
Many candidates used the methodology of questionnaire, but did not effectively apply it as they did not analyse the results or evaluate their use of this method of gathering data. Quantitative methodologies are more effective when reported visually, for example as graphs, tables or pie-charts, as well as being referred to in the central material. Personal reflection was a very popular aspect of many projects. However, candidates need to be aware that they are assessed on their application of a variety of methodologies, and that it is not advisable to overly rely on personal reflection, or any other single methodology. Personal reflection should not be interpreted as an opportunity to indulge in personal unsubstantiated viewpoints. It is advisable not to attempt too many methodologies. Candidates should select an optimal number and deal with these effectively.
If candidates choose to do ‘on line’ surveys, questionnaires or focus groups they need to be aware of their limitations and communicate these in the log or central material. They are valid research methodologies but must be evaluated and justified as a vital step in the research process.
Candidates must be reminded that using a range of methodologies, both primary and secondary, is a requirement of the PIP. They should not show an over-reliance on secondary research. Candidates should always use a range of appropriate methodologies that should be suited to the topic chosen and the objectives of the research being undertaken.
In better PIPs, candidates used a wide range of electronic and printed resources from both primary and secondary sources. They effectively annotated these resources to add to their understanding of research processes. Projects should use footnotes appropriately as a referencing tool and not include lengthy analysis of research findings that were not included in the central material.
In weaker PIPs, candidates did not reference all secondary materials used and often did not reference correctly. These candidates did not provide annotations of the resources used in their resource list. The annotations provided often did not comment on the usefulness or validity of the chosen resources as part of evaluating the research process. The annotations for each item in the resource list need to demonstrate a genuine analysis of the usefulness of each source.
The increasing over-reliance on internet sites means that candidates must be discerning in their process of selecting resources.
Candidates should answer:
- ALL questions in Section I
- ONE question from Section II using one Depth Study
- ONE question from Section III using a different Depth Study.
Note: candidates who completed more than ONE question in either Section II or Section III only received marks for one of the responses. Candidates who answered on the same depth study in both Section II and Section III were awarded marks for one question only.
Section I – Social and cultural continuity and change
Candidates are advised to use the space provided in Section I and not go beyond this space as it may limit the time spent on other sections of the paper. They are also advised to read multiple-choice questions carefully before answering.
Candidates should not write comments about what is the correct multiple-choice answer and why the others are wrong.
In better responses, candidates clearly stated one characteristic of a ‘focus group’ and ‘observation’ as methodologies. These responses clearly identified the usefulness of the chosen methodology in relation to investigating the use of technology in a school. They were procedural in nature, demonstrated a clear understanding of the process and application of the chosen methodology, used appropriate examples and referred to the use of technology throughout.
In weaker responses, candidates did not give clear characteristics of either methodology and generally confused observation with participant observation. They also tended to explain why they would use either focus group or observation as opposed to how they would use the methodology. Weaker responses often did not refer to the use of technology when establishing how they would incorporate this methodology.
Better responses clearly identified changes in technology and specifically referred to the cartoon. In some responses, candidates made the connection between the changing nature of the workplace and technology, and the fusing of work and leisure.
In weaker responses, candidates did not adequately use the stimulus in their answer. They identified changes in relationships rather than focusing on the changes in the uses of the technology.
In better responses, candidates selected a group and clearly identified continuity in that society. These responses identified how this group has benefited from the continuity. They were coherent and provided appropriate examples. In better responses, candidates identified a social group rather than a country or institution. They effectively applied other course terms and concepts.
In weaker responses, candidates did not identify a social group or provide an understanding of how this group had benefited from the continuity. In these responses, candidates struggled to distinguish between a group and a society, often discussing how the society had changed. Weaker responses focused on examples that were generalised and simplistic, often lacking in social and cultural literacy.
In better responses, candidates made a clear judgement about the impact of change on one tradition in the selected country. They were succinct and coherent. Better responses provided a relevant and an appropriate example while integrating other course concepts, such as globalisation, westernisation, industrialisation, cultural heritage and technology.
In weaker responses, candidates provided a descriptive response of a change and or tradition in the selected country. These responses lacked judgement on the impact of change and were more generalised in their examples. Weaker responses did not refer to course concepts.
Section II – Depth studies
Each question in this section is marked separately so all information candidates feel is important for (a) should be included in that response, rather than relying on markers finding information in (b) to contribute marks to (a) and so on.
Some candidates wrote responses in this section of a length that was not commensurate with the mark value, writing several pages for (a). Candidates should be guided by the mark value on the exam paper for this section.
For questions of a mark value of less than 10 marks, it is not necessary for candidates to write explicit introductions and conclusions to their answers, as the expectation is that they will have very limited time to formulate these responses and the structure of these responses is not assessed in the marking criteria.
Question 12: Popular culture
Most candidates demonstrated a sound understanding of the origins of one popular culture focus study and outlined the key features of these origins in concise and conceptual responses. Better responses offered several specific examples of early features of the popular culture focus study (for example dates, places, key individuals) and showed how these contributed to the growth of the popular culture to a global level. Such responses often also addressed the sociocultural context of the popular culture (for example the origins of rock’n’roll during the initial creation of the social construct of teenagers in the 1950s as a form of rebellion against traditional conservative values).
In weaker responses, candidates demonstrated a limited understanding of the origins of the popular culture focus study, often relying on a brief description of the popular culture without connections to its origins. Such responses contained vague and general statements about the focus study without providing any specific features, and some did not specify one popular culture focus study.
In better responses, candidates identified several key heroes within their popular culture focus study and effectively linked them to increases or decreases in consumption over time, in sustained and conceptual responses. These responses also linked the concept of heroes to mythology within the popular culture focus study and traced the impact of heroes on consumption throughout the history of the focus study. In better responses, candidates also explicitly linked heroes and mythology to specific aspects of consumption, such as paraphernalia or access, using clear evidence and examples.
Weaker responses to this question demonstrated a limited understanding of the concept of heroes and an inability to apply this concept to the popular culture focus study. In such responses, candidates often struggled to identify particular examples of heroes within the focus study or were not able to link this concept to consumption. Some weaker responses tended to be a description of key features of the popular culture or of heroes within the focus study without any clear connection to how these have affected consumption over time.
In better responses, candidates considered a variety of potential implications of continued globalisation on the future consumption of their popular culture focus studies, incorporating a variety of specific examples and course concepts. They made effective judgements on a range of facets of globalisation and supported these with appropriate evidence.
In better responses, candidates also demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of globalisation and made clear links between these processes and the future consumption of the popular culture focus study. They applied methodologies for making predictions about the future, like trend extrapolation, and made logical and sustained judgements on future consumption which were clearly linked with historical trends. These responses included a range of appropriate examples from focus studies. Such focus studies included rock’n’roll, surfing, teen movies, Bollywood, Barbie and specific genres of television. Better responses were sustained and logical.
In weaker responses, candidates had difficulty making clear connections between globalisation and future consumption of a popular culture focus study. These responses often showed a very limited understanding of the concept of globalisation, in many cases confining their discussion of globalisation to technological change only. These responses also often struggled to deal effectively with the ‘future’ component of the question and rather presented a general description of the history of the globalisation of their popular culture focus study without making clear links to the impact this may have on the future.
Some weaker responses described the various aspects of consumption of their popular culture focus study without connecting this with globalisation or the future. These responses also tended to use course concepts in a limited way in disorganised or illogical responses.
These responses often demonstrated a very limited understanding of the nature of popular culture and used a limited range of examples, often resorting to recounting the history of one particular popular culture with little connection to the question. The examples chosen were taken from inappropriate focus studies of popular culture that limited the students’ ability to make effective judgements about the implications of globalisation.
These responses relied upon focus studies that were either particularly narrow and did not allow for effective judgements about future consumption to be made, for example individual artists like Justin Bieber or brands like Carebears, or focus studies that were very broad. Very broad focus studies like television or music do not allow students to make effective judgements about consumption, control, perception or contributions to social change due to the diversity found within them.
Question 13: Belief systems
In better responses, candidates clearly identified the key features of the historical basis of one belief system, outlining key people, places and dates.
Weaker responses identified some features of the belief system. These candidates focused on the core beliefs of their chosen belief system rather than its historical origins.
In better responses, candidates had a high level of understanding of the concept of globalisation and its impact on their chosen belief system. They clearly identified the consequences of globalisation on the belief system, both in terms of increased access and its implications for the belief system. These responses demonstrated that the impact of the global spread of western values and practices on belief systems could be positive and/or negative. In better responses, candidates integrated other course terms and concepts such as westernisation, culture, society, micro, macro and cultural heritage.
In weaker responses, candidates identified some aspects of globalisation. These responses were often generalised with candidates providing a simplistic description of the concept of globalisation. Weaker responses, in particular, focused generally only on the internet increasing access to the belief system, rather than globalisation’s impact on the belief system. These responses were often descriptive, with limited examples.
In better responses, candidates effectively demonstrated the relationship between their chosen belief system and peace and conflict in the world. They clearly identified a range of appropriate examples to explain how the belief system has contributed to peace and conflict in the world and alternatively how this has impacted on the belief system. Better responses focused on both micro and macro examples of peace and conflict within the belief system and then linked this to peace and conflict in the world. Better responses integrated course concepts and language relevant to the belief systems depth study in a sustained and well-organised response to the question.
Weaker responses provided a description of a belief system, often outlining the rituals and beliefs but not addressing the question. They often identified an example of peace or conflict within the belief system itself. These responses were generalised and did not integrate other course terms or concepts. Weak responses focused on peace or conflict within a country (for example, Afghanistan), rather than the belief system’s relationship to peace and conflict in the world.
Question 14: Equality and difference
In better responses, candidates clearly indicated the main features of both ‘equality’ and ‘difference’. In these responses, candidates clearly demonstrated an understanding of the difference between equality and difference, and provided clear examples of both concepts.
In weaker responses, candidates attempted to indicate some features of ‘equality’ and/or ‘difference’. These responses often identified equality and difference inaccurately and provided simplistic, generalised examples.
In better responses, candidates clearly showed an understanding of the relationship between inequality and two of its consequences. Candidates provided evidence related to the consequences of inequality from a range of causes and outcomes. They used a range of evidence to support their explanation, including appropriate, accurate examples and statistical data. These candidates also consistently and effectively integrated a range of appropriate equality and difference concepts and terminology and communicated in a logical, organised manner.
In weaker responses, candidates did not show an understanding of the relationship between inequality and its consequences. These responses tended to outline some consequences of inequality and did not address the question explicitly. Weaker responses were simplistic and generalised, and limited in their use of evidence, course concepts and language.
In better responses, candidates demonstrated a high level of understanding of the nature of inequality in Australian society. They provided evidence related to the nature of inequality, its causes and impacts, experienced by a range of social groups, including those defined by gender, ethnicity, location, sexuality, disability and socioeconomic background. They identified points for and against the view that Australia is becoming a more equal society. Candidates used a range of evidence to support their discussion, including appropriate, accurate examples and statistical data. These candidates also consistently and effectively integrated a range of appropriate equality and difference concepts and terminology and communicated in a sustained, logical and well-structured manner.
In weaker responses, candidates did not understand the nature of inequality in Australian society. In such responses, candidates tended to outline a one-sided view that Australia is becoming more equal or more unequal, and did not address the question explicitly. Weaker responses were simplistic and generalised, and limited in their use of evidence, course concepts and language.
Question 15: Work and leisure
In stronger responses, candidates clearly outlined the interrelationship of work and leisure and often explained how the cultural context influenced their meaning. An appreciation of both paid and unpaid work, as well as passive and active leisure, was also common.
In weaker responses, candidates sometimes misunderstood the question and discussed other concepts related to the work and leisure depth study. Other candidates only identified paid work as legitimate.
In stronger responses, candidates clearly explained how technology has contributed to patterns of change in leisure. They generally focused on broader areas of technology, which they identified and then explained in terms of their contribution to related changing social patterns.
In weaker responses, candidates tended to identify specific items of technology, or gadgets, and explained their contribution to the lifestyle choices of individuals, rather than to patterns of leisure within society.
Candidates in better responses presented an analysis of the impact of technology in the future which was logical and sustained, with course themes and concepts integrated throughout. They focused mainly on broader areas of technology and kept their analysis predominantly on the future. Both work and leisure were analysed, with an awareness of the interrelationship between them. Many used possible, preferable and probable scenarios to structure their response. Other candidates used analysis of current trends. The future impacts that were analysed were appropriate and based on consideration of current issues and trends.
In weaker responses, candidates did not maintain their focus on the question and applied few course themes or concepts. They did not focus on ‘changing patterns’ which are current, and relied too often on historical narrative. Some used unrealistic and simplistic future scenarios that were not based on evidence from current trends. They often limited their analysis to specific items or gadgets, and their effects on the lifestyle choices of individuals.
Section III – Depth studies
Question 16: Popular culture
In better responses, candidates clearly demonstrated a high level of understanding of the role of media in the development of popular culture from a local to a national and then global level. They recognised the many forms of the media and the way in which it has assisted the perpetuation or movement of popular culture to a global status. They also made a clear judgement of the interaction of media with their popular culture, linking strongly their understanding of how media assists popular culture to reach its global status.
In better responses, candidates effectively applied a range of appropriate course concepts, such as change, globalisation, ideology, influence, technology, westernisation and access. Better responses were supported by a range of appropriate evidence from one or more relevant depth studies which allowed for meaningful and effective judgements to be made. These depth studies included rock’n’roll and other genres of music like hip-hop or punk, teen movies, denim and surfing. Better responses were sustained, logical and cohesive in their structure.
Weaker responses were often a descriptive narrative of the candidates’ knowledge of their chosen popular culture. In such responses, candidates demonstrated a limited understanding of the role of the media in the perpetuation of their popular culture example. They either did not evaluate, or did not link their evaluation of the role of the media to the perpetuation of their popular culture to its global status. These responses tended to use a limited range of examples, often resorting to recounting the popular culture with little connection to the question. The examples chosen were often taken from inappropriate depth studies of popular culture that limited the candidates’ ability to draw connections between media and their depth study. In some weaker responses, candidates did not clearly address the question asked and presented what appeared to be a prepared response. Weaker responses included a limited range of concepts and course language and generally were not well organised.
Question 17: Belief systems
In better responses, candidates had a clear understanding of the concepts of ideology and belief. These candidates effectively demonstrated the role of ideology and belief in society using a range of examples drawn from either one belief system or a variety of belief systems. Better responses related the impact of belief and ideology to aspects of society, such as marriage, law, politics, education and the family. These responses clearly identified the implications of belief and ideology on society, integrating terms and concepts such as secular, globalisation, culture, continuity and change.
In addition, better responses were presented in a coherent and well-structured manner in which candidates demonstrated how the development of social institutions was clearly related to the beliefs and ideologies of a society. These responses also linked examples to the idea of social structures and social behaviour.
Weaker responses provided a limited description of ideology and belief and its role in one aspect of society. These responses often simply outlined the ideologies of a belief system. Weaker responses often used generalised examples. These responses were not sustained and often did not exhibit social and cultural literacy. Weaker responses were limited in their use of examples, course concepts and language.
Question 18: Equality and difference
In better responses, candidates demonstrated substantial knowledge and understanding of existing inequalities and provided detailed evidence for the likely impacts on the selected society. The majority of responses used Australian society and inequality based on gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background and location. Candidates provided evidence related to possible impacts of maintaining existing inequalities from a range of perspectives.
In better responses, candidates made judgements about the likely impacts of maintaining existing inequalities on the selected society. They used a range of evidence to support their judgement, including appropriate, accurate examples and statistical data. These candidates also consistently and effectively integrated a range of appropriate equality and difference concepts and terminology and communicated in a sustained, logical and cohesive manner.
In weaker responses, candidates did not understand the reasons for existing inequalities in the selected society and tended to describe those inequalities in a fairly limited manner. These responses tended to outline some possible impacts of maintaining existing inequalities, and did not address the question explicitly. Weaker responses were simplistic and generalised, and limited in their use of evidence, course concepts and language.
Question 19: Work and leisure
In better responses, candidates presented a sustained and logical response to the question. They integrated course themes and concepts and used appropriate examples. There was evidence of a high level of understanding of the concepts of work, leisure and technology. Many candidates placed contemporary changing patterns into their historical context, but focused the argument mainly on contemporary issues. The evaluation of these changes was genuine and insightful, based on evidence and logical argument, often including reference to theoretical perspectives. These evaluations also included an awareness of how these changing patterns affect different social groups in different ways.
In weaker responses, candidates did not sustain a logical argument and course themes, and concepts were not evident. They often relied on an historical narrative that did not directly address the question and they were mostly descriptive. Some appeared to follow a prepared approach with little consideration of the question. The identification of changing patterns was not supported.