Posts Tagged ‘differential achievement’
The relationship between social class – or socio-economic status (SES) if you prefer – and differential educational achievement is well-known at A-level and students are expected to discuss and evaluate a range of possible factors / explanations for this relationship; these are usually grouped, largely for theoretical convenience, into “outside school” and “inside school” factors, each involving a range of material and cultural factors. The latter, for example, conventionally include things like:
- Type of School (private, grammar, comprehensive…)
- Teacher Attitudes that involve ideas about labelling and self-fulfilling prophecies
- Ability grouping – practices such as streaming, setting and banding.
- Social inclusion / exclusion – for example, physical exclusion / suspension as well as self-exclusion (truancy).
- Pro-and-anti school subcultures.
Although each of these is arguably significant, they reflect a rather piecemeal approach to explaining educational achievement differences, particularly those of social class.
One way of pulling some – if not necessarily all – of these strands together is through the concept of school climate; this encompasses a range of material and cultural organisational factors focused on “the school” that, proponents argue, foster academic achievement.
- A basic structure for students to follow when making notes about the different kinds of evidence they can use to support or question theoretical explanations for differential educational achievement.
- A standardised format for sharing information around the class electronically (using Padlet / Google Drive for example).
- identifying a range of theories that can be used to explain differential educational achievement across and within categories of class, gender and ethnicity.
- identifying and collecting evidence that can be used to test (support or refute) the various theories examined.
The accompanying PowerPoint is designed to help you develop this structure and while it’s not essential it can help to both set and explain the scene by introducing the idea of suspects, theory development and evidence gathering at the core of the sim.
I’ve long been interested in the idea of using simulations (and games – see Disclaimer below) as teaching tools – see, for example, a couple of online efforts I created many moons ago when the Internet was still young and frames seemed such a good idea:
- Education and Differential Achievement: The Sociological Detective http://www.sociology.org.uk/revtece1.htm
Although the game is incomplete it should convey the overall idea that “studying sociology” at A-level can be a bit like being a detective – you identify “suspects”, develop theories to explain social phenomena and collect / evaluate different types of evidence.
- Crime, Deviance and Methods: The Great Chocolate Bar Theft http://www.sociology.org.uk/game1.htm (be aware the email answers part of the sim will not work for technical reasons that are just too boring to bother explaining)
One of the problems, aside from having the time and ability to think them up, has always been the difficulty of finding materials that not only delight, surprise and occasionally befuddle students but which also have teaching content that repays all the time and effort required to set-up and use them effectively in the classroom.
The Internet has, to some extent, made this easier in terms of finding stuff and it has to be noted that just about everything that’s presented here has been invented by someone other than myself. Where I know who created the materials they’re given appropriate credit but in some instances I don’t have the first idea about the identity of their creator, so if you are that person I’d just like to say “Sorry”, “Thank You” and “I’ve hidden all my money in off-shore trusts, so don’t bother suing”.
Explanations for differential educational achievement across different class, age, gender and ethnic categories are many, varied and complex, so it’s unlikely any single explanation taken out of the context of the lived experiences of different social groups can fully explain these differences. However, this is not to say it’s not a useful exercise to get students to consider (and evaluate) “single-issue” explanations.
In this respect this article – White children ‘falling behind other groups at GCSE’ – suggests that parental engagements (what parents actually do to support their children’s education) are a more-significant factor in achievement than “parental aspirations” (what parents hope and encourage their children to achieve) and it can form the basis for a some useful classroom exercises:
One aspect of the debate surrounding explanations for differences in achievement is the idea of material deprivation – and while this has, in recent times, fallen out-of-favour (particularly with politicians and media organisations, a new report from the Children’s Commission gives a new impetus to the idea that poverty remains a hugely-significant factor in any understanding of achievement differences. You can download:
The Report highlights an interesting snippet that can be applied to educational achievement.
“Converter academies” (schools that voluntarily changed their status under policies introduced by the Conservative government post-2010) performed less-well than “Sponsored Academies” – those schools identified as “underperforming” in terms of exam results and converted to Academies under the previous Labour government.
This suggests that where time, effort and money is applied to particular schools and students, exam results are more-likely to improve – and while this is only one dimension of “educational achievement” it provides some useful evaluative material for exam questions on this topic.