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Archive for November, 2018

Psychological Studies: A Free Text

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

40 Studies that Changed Psychology is a free (presumably because it’s around 10 years old and out-of-print) text I discovered while rooting around the Web that offers-up a selection of influential psychological studies that, in the opinion of its author Roger Hock, changed the way we think about – and in some cases do – psychology.

Whether or not you agree with the author’s claim (an alternative title – “A collection of psychological studies, a lot of which you’ve heard of, some of which you haven’t” – probably doesn’t have quite the zing of the actual title), students and teachers will definitely find something here of interest in its 10 chapters that cover:

• Biology and Human Behavior (sic)
• Perception and Consciousness
• Learning and Conditioning
• Intelligence, Cognition and Memory
• Human Development
• Emotion and Motivation
• Personality
• Psychopathology
• Psychotherapy
• Social Psychology

Each chapter contains 4 readings (Social Psychology, for example, features Zimbardo (1972) “The pathology of imprisonment” / Asch (1955) “Opinions and social pressure” / Darley and Latané (1968) “Bystander intervention in emergencies” / Milgram (1963) “Behavioral study of obedience”), each of which is sub-divided into sections covering:

• theoretical propositions
• research methods
• results
• discussion
• criticisms.

This consistency of presentation is an attractive feature that makes it relatively easy for students to hone-in on the main ideas in each reading, how the research was carried-out, the results it gave and a short discussion of the main criticisms it has attracted over the years.

Although the majority of the studies will only be of interest to psychology teachers, a few – Rosenthal and Jacobson, Rosenhan, Zimbardo, Asch, Milgram – will also be useful to sociology teachers.

Psychology Learning Tables | 6

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

It’s been a while (March 2018 if anyone’s interested. Anyone?) since I posted any psychology Learning Tables / Knowledge Organisers so I thought it might be helpful to post a few more to add to your growing collection.

As you may have noticed, I’ve decided to post the Tables in a slightly different way, as small collections of related areas rather than individually, on the basis that this is an easier and less cumbersome way of downloading the Tables. I have, however, indicated below exactly what each Collection contains.

The majority of the Tables have been created by, or under the direction of, Miss K. Elles and while some take the standard Knowledge Organiser format others take a more-sophisticated approach – an indication of A / C / E grade answers in a PEEL format. (more…)

School Climate: Narrowing the Gender Gap?

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

In a UK context, the relationship between gender and educational achievement – whereby girls consistently outperform boys at all levels of the education system – is both well-known and persistent. More-interestingly, per

Canford Public School: school climate may be affected by a range of external factors, such as the public perceptions of a school and its value.

haps, this situation is not, as Legewie and DiPrete (2012) note, confined to the UK, given that “boys generally underperform relative to girls in schools throughout the industrialized world”.

As you might expect, numerous explanations for the “gender gap” in achievement have been put-forward – biological, psychological and sociological – that variously focus on:

• outside school factors, such as poverty, innate intelligence or family background.
• inside school factors, such as teacher labelling or different types of pupil subculture.

More-recently, however, there’s been a tentative shift in (sociological) focus towards a more-integrated, holistic, approach to understanding the precise mechanics of differential achievement, one that places the concept of school climate centre stage.

School Climate

One of the benefits of a standardised secondary education system is that all students, regardless of social attributes like class or gender, follow the same basic curriculum, sit the same exams and are evaluated to the same basic standards. All things being equal, therefore, we might statistically and sociologically expect a fairly random distribution of achievement across a general population.

The fact there is a distinctly non-random distribution – higher socio-economic status (SES) groups achieve more than lower SES groups, girls generally achieve more than boys in each SES grouping – suggests things are far from equal. The problem, as we’ve suggested, is how to explain these skewed achievement distributions?

The concept of school climate involves the idea that a combination of material and cultural factors, centred in and around “the school”, inhibit or foster academic achievement.

The school, in other words, is the place where a range of processes – from social class backgrounds through pupil subcultures to pupil-teacher interactions – meet and interact and the main question to resolve, in terms of differential achievement, is whether or not schools are simply conduits through which wider social and economic inequalities pass. In other words, do schools simply reflect and refine wider inequalities or are they capable of mitigating and transforming them?

The Male-Female Gender Gap…

Legewie and DiPrete’s (2012) research in Berlin, Germany, suggests that school climate may be a significant, if largely-overlooked, factor in differential achievement, at least in relation to gender (although the research does have wider implications for both class and ethic differences).

Drawing on a range of research from Willis (1977) onward, they argue that one of the crucial variables in both achievement and underachievement is the concept of “gender differentiated adolescent cultures”, developed and reinforced in peer groups, that are “important influences on how children view school, whether they take school seriously, and how hard they work as students”.

In a nutshell they argue that adolescent constructions of masculinity in contemporary industrial societies generally foster a range of anti-school attitudes and behaviours that impact on boys’ levels of achievement relative to girls. While it’s not necessarily the case that these attitudes are overtly hostile to schooling, per se, Legewie and DiPrete argue there generally exists a “peer culture that constructs resistance to schools and teachers as valued masculine traits”. To put this another way, Younger et al (2005) suggest there’s strong evidence that, in the UK at least (and very probably elsewhere), the most valued ways of “doing boy” tend to be “anti-school”, with academic work closely associated with femininity “and effortless achievement as the ideal”.

While this resistance appears in male peer groups right across the class spectrum – upper-class girls, for example, generally show greater levels of achievement than upper-class boys – its effect diminishes the higher up the class structure we look: upper and middle class boys, for example, consistently outperform lower class girls.

One reason for this, Legewie and DiPrete suggest, is that “High-status parents generally foster an orientation for their boys that is at least instrumentally focused on high performance in school. These parents also have resources to intervene in their children’s lives to counter signs of educational detachment or poor performance”.

For lower-class males whose families lack such resources the types of successful interventions common among their higher-class peers necessarily fall on the school. Or not, as the case may be. Female peer groups, on the other hand, “vary less strongly with the social environment in the extent to which school engagement is stigmatized as un-feminine”.

In other words, female peer groups right across the class structure don’t see “resistance to authority and disengagement from school as core aspects of feminine identity”. One important consequence of this non-association, therefore, is that girls don’t see “attachment to teachers and school” as unfeminine.

(more…)

Gender and Subject Choice

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

Another little bonus to add to yesterday’s offering from the work I’m currently doing on the concept of school climate and its possible effect on achievement.

This one comes in the form of a couple of pieces of research commissioned by the Institute of Physics that cover gendered subject choices at A-level.

Closing Doors: Exploring gender and subject choice in schools (2013) provides a raft of information on male-female representation across 3 “comparable pairs” of 6 A-level subjects:

• English and Mathematics: both core subjects at GCSE
• Biology and Physics: two science choices at A-level
• Psychology and Economics: A-level subjects not normally taught in earlier years.

Although the presentation, findings and commentaries are probably a little too dense to be given directly to students, there’s plenty here for teachers to get their teeth into and selectively use. There is, however, a neat summary of the research right at the start that students will find helpful.

It’s Different for Girls (2012) is a companion piece to Closed Doors focused much more tightly on Physics A-level. Once again, probably not something to simply hand-out to students but, again, it’s a piece of research that teachers’ might find selectively rewarding.

If, for example, you were looking for examples of a “school climate” effect in relation to gender, it’s interesting that while the socio-economic background of a school has, as you might expect, a significant effect in terms of the raw numbers of those studying physics at A-level, there is little effect on cohort proportions. That is, the proportion of girls and boys studying a-level physics is similar across all socio-economic groups – an observation that suggests factors additional to social class impact on subject choice.

DEA: Mythbusters

Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

I’ve recently been looking at the idea of school climate and its possible relationship to the gender gap in educational achievement for a forthcoming blog post, a fact I mention for a couple of reasons:

firstly, because I think the notion of school climate and its possible impact on educational achievement is an interesting idea, both conceptually and practically, that’s not really been adequately, if at all, addressed in the A-level literature and, secondly, by way of trying to create the impression that I actually plan these blog posts. I’ll leave you to decide which, if any, of these is more important (but I know where I’m placing my bet).

I mention this by way of introducing a useful and informative document I chanced across called Addressing Gender and Achievement: Myths and Realities (2009) and published by what was then the Department for Children, Schools and Families (it’s anyone’s guess what it’s called now).

In a nutshell, the document sets-out to bust-some-myths about gender and educational achievement in a simple and straightforward way:

• state the myth (“Coursework favours girls and ‘sudden death’ examinations favour boys”).
• bust it with evidence (“Changes in assessment practice reducing the value of the GCSE coursework component have had little impact on gendered achievement patterns”).
• briefly explain the evidence.

As such, it’s not only a useful and informative little document, it’s also one that’s a decidedly student-friendly read (which is quite handy if you like to get your students to read stuff).