Education: the research context: a summary

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  • Education: the research context
    • Researching pupils
    • Malcolm Hill (2005): there are 3 major differences between studying young people and studying adults
      • Ability and understanding
        • Children are less able to grasp the abstract concepts that sociology deals in
        • It is more difficult to gain children's informed consent
        • Children may be less able to recall detailed information
      • Vulnerability
        • There are more 'gatekeepers' controlling access to pupils than most other social groups
        • Child protection issues are very important
        • It is not enough simply to obtain the informed consent of parents or teachers
    • Researching teachers
      • Power and status
        • Teachers have more power and status because of their age, experience and responsibility within the school
        • The nature of the classroom reinforces the power of the teacher
        • Researchers have to develop a 'cover' if they wish to carry out covert investigations
      • Impression management (Erving Goffman (1969))
        • Teachers are used to being observed and scrutinised
          • Teachers are often highly skilled at 'impression management'
            • Teachers may not be completely honest if they think it will affect their career prospects
            • Headteacher may try to influence which staff are selected to be involved
    • Researching classrooms
      • Access to classrooms is controlled by a wide range of gatekeepers
      • When in school-based groups children may be more sensitive to peer pressure and the need to conform, affecting the way they respond to being researched
    • Researching schools
      • There is lots of secondary data available but schools may alter it or influence it in their favour
      • Heads and governors act as gatekeepers. Roland Meighan and Clive Harber (2007): heads sometimes view research negatively
        • Beynon and Atkinson (1984): gatekeepers often steer the researcher away from sensitive situations
      • The population is captive
      • Schools are formal organisations with rules and hierarchies. Researchers may come to be seen as part of the hierarchy
        • A school's timetable will restrict when the research can be carried out
          • The size and complexity of a school can mean the researcher has to familiarise themself with their surroundings for a while first
    • Researching parents
      • Parents influence education through how they bring up their children, their involvement in PTA's, parents evenings and as governors, and marketisation policies
      • Parents are more difficult to contact and research because they are mostly physically located outside the school
      • Parental permission is required for many types of research with pupils
  • Power and status
    • Having less power generally makes it more difficult for children to state their attitudes and views openly
    • Formal research methods such as structured interviews or questionnaires tend to reinforce power differences
    • Malcolm Hill (2005): there are 3 major differences between studying young people and studying adults
      • Ability and understanding
        • Children are less able to grasp the abstract concepts that sociology deals in
        • It is more difficult to gain children's informed consent
        • Children may be less able to recall detailed information
      • Vulnerability
        • There are more 'gatekeepers' controlling access to pupils than most other social groups
        • Child protection issues are very important
        • It is not enough simply to obtain the informed consent of parents or teachers
  • Classrooms are highly controlled settings
    • The classroom behaviour that the researcher observes may not accurately reflect what those involved really think and feel
      • Classrooms are less open than many other settings
        • Researching classrooms
          • Access to classrooms is controlled by a wide range of gatekeepers
          • When in school-based groups children may be more sensitive to peer pressure and the need to conform, affecting the way they respond to being researched

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