Academically able boys’ perceptions of their learning: a grounded theory analysis

Corry, Val (2017) Academically able boys’ perceptions of their learning: a grounded theory analysis. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In one secondary school in Scotland, there was a trend that girls performed significantly better than boys at the more challenging levels of external examinations. The focus of this thesis has been an exploration of 16 to 18-year-old, academically able boys’ perceptions of their learning in this school, to seek an explanation for this phenomenon.

The literature review considers the concept of gender in education; the policy landscape and national attainment data in relation to gender and attainment; and the key reviews/studies carried out in this field to provide governments with a deeper understanding of gendered performance, and recommendations for educational professionals to bring about improvements. These reviews/studies focused on all boys and not on this particular subset of academically able boys.

A central issue in gender equity in education is the lived experiences of different groups of learners in schools. The stance taken in this research is to consider the learning of selected boys (who are high attaining, or who have the potential to achieve highly academically) from the senior year groups in one school by exploring, through interview, their personal experiences, views, perceptions and opinions about learning: the factors that facilitate and hinder progress in learning. For the case study approach adopted, groups of girls, teachers and parents in the school were also interviewed to triangulate the findings from the boys’ interviews. A grounded theory approach, using methods developed by Strauss and Corbin (1990, 2008) and Glaser (1992), and supplemented by techniques advocated by Charmaz (2014), was used for the interviewing and the analysis of the empirical data collected: using line-by-line coding, conceptualisation, categorisation and theory generation. The advantage of grounded theory is that it is ‘grounded’ in the empirical data. This interpretative approach makes no attempt to select and ‘test’ factors that could be influencing the phenomenon, rather exploring widely to seek understanding from the perspective of the subjects.

The grounded theory that emerged from the case study in School A was that these boys realise what is required of them to be successful in their learning, and what hinders their learning, but their success is limited by adopting an essentialist construction of their gender with gender stereotypical characteristics.

The phenomenon is not unique to this one school and so a similar case study approach was undertaken in two further schools, Schools B and C, to consider the transferability of the theory emerging from the data collected in School A. School B had a similar gendered attainment profile to School A, whereas in School C there was little or no difference in attainment by gender.

The thesis concludes with some recommendations for policy and practice: professional learning of teachers, working with parents on understanding gender, and the privileging of ‘pupil voice’ as a way of exploring issues such as gender.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Gender and attainment, academically able boys, boys’ attainment, pupil voice, grounded theory, gender and educational policy, gender and Scottish education.
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary Education. High schools
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Forde, Professor Christine
Date of Award: 2017
Depositing User: Val Corry
Unique ID: glathesis:2017-8094
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 28 Apr 2017 08:58
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2017 12:34

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