Stanworth (1983): Gender and Schooling
In this classic piece of feminist research, Michelle Stanworth highlighted the way in which sexual divisions and gender discrimination were reproduced in the school environment. She carried out individual, in-depth interviews with teachers and pupils (both male and female) in seven A-level classes in the Humanities department of a sixth form college. Her aim was to explore the extent to which gender affected the way teachers thought about their pupils’ career prospects, and consequently how male and female pupils might have different experiences of classroom interaction. Stanworth concluded that boys demanded and received more of their teachers’ attention than girls, who felt that they were marginalized in classroom encounters. Teachers also had lower expectations of their female pupils’ career prospects, because they expected them to get married and adhere to traditional stereotypes of domestic femininity. We can classify this project as having a case study research design, in that Stanworth was focusing on the social processes at play in one specific setting and at one moment in time; she did not want to compare the school to any others or to measure any changes in her participants’ attitudes over time. This was a qualitative research strategy, which Stanworth employed by using her detailed observations of one case to develop a more general theory of gender and education. It is likely to have been high in trustworthiness (if not validity), because the researcher used quotations from the interviews to support her arguments, and so seems to offer a genuine insight into how teachers and pupils perceive classroom interaction. She also provides a clear account of her methodology, which means that it would be easy to replicate the study. However, the personal and subjective nature of Stanworth’s observations mean that this piece of research would be low in reliability and external validity, for if the study were...
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