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British Educational Research Association, Institute of Education, 5 th -8 th September 2007 Clever girl! A psychosocial reading of gender and relationships.

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Presentation on theme: "British Educational Research Association, Institute of Education, 5 th -8 th September 2007 Clever girl! A psychosocial reading of gender and relationships."— Presentation transcript:

1 British Educational Research Association, Institute of Education, 5 th -8 th September 2007 Clever girl! A psychosocial reading of gender and relationships with mathematics Heather Mendick The theories we use arise from a variety of influences: disciplinary location; access; their ability to address concerns produced from our experiences and histories; their explanatory power and their practical adequacy. Why is it that some theories have the ability to encapsulate experiences whilst others make no sense? And why do we gravitate towards particular theories? (Beverley Skeggs 1997, p.23)

2 British Educational Research Association, Institute of Education, 5 th -8 th September 2007 The theories we choose and that choose us How could this video be used as evidence that the body being beaten was itself the source of danger, the threat of violence, and further, that the beaten body of Rodney King bore an intention to injure precisely those police who either wielded the baton against him or stood encircling him … That it was achieved is not the consequence of ignoring the video, but, rather, of reproducing the video within a racially saturated field of visibility … This is a seeing which is a reading, that is, a contestable construal, but one which nevertheless passes itself off as ‘seeing,’ a reading which became for that white community, and for countless others, the same as seeing. (Judith Butler 1993, p.15-16, original emphasis)

3 British Educational Research Association, Institute of Education, 5 th -8 th September 2007 Seeing differently: switching: figure-ground; foreground-background; subject-object I am not here saying that … ducks can become rabbits but that what we see and concentrate on is only a partial picture and that this way of looking is motivated by what we think a human subject is, that is the assumptions we bring to bear on how we understand what we look at. …

4 British Educational Research Association, Institute of Education, 5 th -8 th September 2007 Seeing differently: switching: figure-ground; foreground-background; subject-object If we emphasise relations over subjects, the solidity of subject and object boundaries begins to fragment. I am interested in that fragmentation because it allows us to focus on the complexity of what happens in ways that show us connection rather than separation into discrete persons acting on objects. (Valerie Walkerdine 2007, p.3)

5 British Educational Research Association, Institute of Education, 5 th -8 th September 2007 Clever girl! Gerry: “I think I’m naturally quite clever”; names herself as a “mathematician”; not “overly ambitious” or “a very ambitious person”; discomforts with her own competitiveness; desire not to get “too serious”; boyfriend/brother both doing maths and science. Becca: Has mostly male friends in same classes: “My friends that are girls are like ‘oh yeah Becca, she’s really clever’; because they’re not really in my classes any more my friends that are girls, they’re in other classes and you know they say she’s really clever and they take the mick but … they know … well I’m not …, I’m not saying I’m clever for taking maths but it’s a different, it’s still an A level it’s just a different subject.”

6 British Educational Research Association, Institute of Education, 5 th -8 th September 2007 Clever boy!

7 British Educational Research Association, Institute of Education, 5 th -8 th September 2007 Becca and Gerry They are middle-class, white, female, at same school They are clever and very academically successful They have a questioning view of maths – asking ‘why?’ They relate gender and other differences in subject choices to differences in interests They don’t automatically choose subjects they’re good at They always enjoyed the subjects they like/do now They stress enjoyment was central to their subject choices, and parental concern with their happiness They are each living their dad’s longed for choices Different choices

8 British Educational Research Association, Institute of Education, 5 th -8 th September 2007 Enjoyment Gerry: It’s important to do well in art and art history: “because I enjoy it, that’s why it’s important to me. […] like I said I am not one to take something just because I’m good at it. […] you know it’s a difficult exam [art history] but because I’m really interested in it I’m sure I’ll do much better than I would otherwise […] I think it’s more important to do what you enjoy, that’s all.” “I enjoy it [art]. I get quite cranky and grumpy if I don’t do art.” Becca: Career? “I’m kind of stumped at the minute I don’t … um … I don’t think I want to go to university because... er … I don’t really think that’s the thing for me. I think I want to take a gap year … and then and then … a job in something so [interruption] so I don’t really think that I’m taking those three subjects to get a career in that I just picked things that I enjoy to get … to get an A-level that I enjoyed … and hopefully … that would be good for everything.”

9 British Educational Research Association, Institute of Education, 5 th -8 th September 2007 Always already Gerry: “I’m afraid mathematics has always took a back seat in my life because [of] music and art. But erm interestingly, apparently, I’ve heard that people who are good at maths are often very good at music … and I’ve always been very musical and very good at maths.” “I’ve always found maths a lot less stressful than any of the other subjects - and I’ve always grown up … with a lot of classical music from my dad and a lot … the art cupboard was our playground […] So I’ve just grown up being really creative I suppose. I mean I was never always really amazing at art but I did always really enjoy it and when it gets to this level, it’s more you know you can achieve in something if you enjoy it enough, I I personally believe.” “It’s [astronomy] always been a passion for me and my dad.”

10 British Educational Research Association, Institute of Education, 5 th -8 th September 2007 Fathers Becca: “I don’t know, I get, I work … in primary school I was always, I was always in the top, in the high classes for maths and um … and also when I was little my dad … um he was brilliant at maths, well he still is, and he always WISHED he’d taken it further, [J: right] because he didn’t go to university. [J: right] So he’s like ‘you know you’re good … you can keep doing it’, so he encouraged me a LOT with my maths, a lot … um because … I mean er in GCSEs I got a higher grade in English than I did in maths, I got [J: oh? Right] I got a few I dunno an A* in English and I wanted it in maths … but I thought there’s no way I want to take English because I want to do maths because I enjoy it.” “I loved my lessons because of the teacher I was with … I love the subject and I love the way he taught.” “I just love learning different things and how things fit together … there’s always um … reasons behind things. I think at first at first it’s kind of basic but when you go into how things are done it relates all kind of other things all stick together it’s just amazing how it all sticks together.”


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