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University subject choice and discourses of decision-making amongst AS Level mathematics students. Pauline Davis & Maria Pampaka University of Manchester.

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Presentation on theme: "University subject choice and discourses of decision-making amongst AS Level mathematics students. Pauline Davis & Maria Pampaka University of Manchester."— Presentation transcript:

1 University subject choice and discourses of decision-making amongst AS Level mathematics students. Pauline Davis & Maria Pampaka University of Manchester

2 March 06 General framework Sept 06 Programme effectiveness Classroom practices Learner identities Questionnaire design Pilot case studies June 07 Sept 07 Dec 07 (i) initial questionnaire (ii) post test (ii) delayed post test Case studies in UoM and traditional AS Follow up case studies (i) initial interviews (ii) interviews round 2 (ii) follow-up interviews

3 Social differences in University degree subject choice e.g. ethnicity – for questionnaire sample Likelihood of a Minority Ethnic student intending on a University Degree Subject to that of a White British student – for questionnaire sample Ethnic subject choice differences confirmed also in Hutcheson et al (2008), statistical analysis

4 Sociocultural differences and subject choice: findings from the questionnaire data Ethnic and gender differences in subject choice preferences – broadly supporting existing literature Family expectations – White British heritage students behaved differently to other minority ethnic categories, which broadly speaking followed the same trends; – No discrepant gender differences between ethnicity; – Proportionally more “Other than White British” students indicated family expectation for university; Subject choice – Students who indicated a preference for certain “highly prestigious” degree subjects e.g. medicine and dentistry, almost all also indicated family expectations for university, regardless of their heritage; – Students’ not intending on university connected with “no family expectations” or “expect I will not go”. Only White students indicated no family expectations for university.

5 A bar graph of students’ perceived family expectations for university split by ethnic group Ethnic Group

6 Other cultural influences? Our survey data picked up on social differences with regard to perceived family expectations for university in relation to ethnicity and subject choice; But we know that the most culturally situated practices are often invisible to the participants (e.g. Hall); for example, possible family,sibling, peer or teacher influence may simply be unrecognised. Self-report perception data analysis – Is there a connection with students’ discourses of educational choices and decision-making?

7 Seeking explanation in the interview data The 32 interviewees aged 16 and 19; Most were from 1st generation to HE families; 15 were female; 18 were non-white - African, North American, Bangladeshi, Bornean, Brazilian, Bulgarian, Caribbean, Chinese, Columbian, East Asian, Ghanian, Nigerian, Pakistani, Somali, and Ugandan, incl. 7 recent immigrants to Britain; The semi-structured interviews focused on students past and present experiences of learning maths, how they chose their A level and degree subjects, their educational and career aspirations and the role of maths in their imagined futures; Students interviewed 3 or 4 times over eighteen months. Davis et al (2008) Aspirations, subject choice and drop out: decision-making amongst AS Level mathematics students, working paper series (http://www.lta.education.manchester. ac.uk/TLRP/index.htm).

8 Cultural Models: beliefs that inform actions James Gee – mediate practice/identity Davis et al.(2008) identified a number of cultural models which students drew on repeatedly, either in conformity or in resistance, and used to present themselves in certain ways e.g. as a dutiful son doing. These included: “a woman’s role is to support the family”, “you have to play the game to get ahead”, “it’s in my bones/culture to become a…..”, “respect for parents/elders”, “making family proud” and various aspirational and other culturally influenced ideological values. Others may use different terms/ alternative constructions Triandis – multi-dimensional “cultural syndrome” seen in ‘shared attitudes, beliefs, norms, role and self definition, and values of members of each culture organised around a theme (p 407)

9 Contribution: Two discourses of educational decision-making -How students talk - Discourse Analysis – Gee - This identified two distinct discourses about university subject choice decision-making; - individualistic - relational community focused -collectivist - These discourses aligned respectively with White British and non-White British students; - They show university subject choice decision-making as culturally produced and provide for understanding about influences on educational decision-making.

10 You don’t want to go away?” No my parents say stay local”. Why is that? “Only child” (Mohamed, Pakistani recent immigrant) J: Are any other people that you know well enough to talk to about it other than your brother who went to Lucy: No. Because it was my choice, what I wanted to do, so they just encouraged me on what I wanted to do. Not what anyone else wanted me to do …“ J: There’s no one in your extended… sort of family and uncles and aunts and things like that…? So you’ve got one example that you feel is a bit discouraging maybe from going to uni? L: Well yes but… I just don’t see why that affects me because this is their choice and this is my choice… (Lucy, White working class)

11 A relational community/collectivist discourse, valuing educational success Discourse of decisions made in relation to family connections/influences (a relational community model) - Talk recognised community/ family connections and can be seen to be relational Various defining cultural models: - discourse of making family proud - Respect for elders - e.g. being a dutiful son, or a respectful student - Respect for educational success, certain professions/careers - Perceptions of goals as culturally mediated. - Perceptions of strong parental expectations for university Asian – especially evident in the talk of the recent immigrant students Chao draws on this same group of cultural models which she terms filial piety and uses this with other measures of parental behaviour to model cultural differences in students’ educational goals, motivations and behaviours to explain the cultural processes at work.

12 Hernandez-Martinez et al (2008) – “Becoming successful repertoire ” See also Hernandez-Martinez et al (2008) – “Becoming successful repertoire” - Students talked about going to university as a way to achieve social respectability and their career choices were narrowed by what is culturally regarded as a reputable or respectable profession such as Medicine, Accountancy, Business or Law. Parental expectations about their children ’ s choices for future education was strongly present. Hernandez-Martinez et al identified this especially amongst Asian students. (Extract taken from end of project dissemination presentation, Hernandez-Martinez)

13 MP:Your parents wanted you to have a better education so they want you to go to University as well? Mohammed:Yes, they are saying we are staying here for your education and then you can complete it and they can go back. Anupreet:I find it really surprising. Because in Pakistan you are always taught to respect your teacher whereas here they don’t respect teachers which I don’t think is fair on the teachers because at the end of the day they are teaching you.

14 MP: If you were a girl would you probably do something different? Mohammad (M) : Probably a doctor. MP: Why, do you think girls are..? M: I don’t know, in a family most Asian girls like to be doctors. MP: Why is that? M: I don’t know. It’s just that the family, they want them to do good. MP: And they want them to be doctors? M: Boys as well, doctors. MP: The same, it doesn’t matter. M: It’s the respect, you see. If someone’s a doctor in your family, everyone respects you [the family]. And that’s why they [parents] want their children to be doctors. MP: So any other jobs that are respectful? Just doctors? M: I think, mostly I’ve heard about doctors in my country. MP: What about your decision, I mean, Accountancy? How do they see it? M: It’s respect in my family.

15 “No, it’s ok, yeah, because Medicine is like... one of the reasons why I chose Biology was because my Mum wanted me to go in Medicine, you know, she thought..”, Your Mum? “Yeah.” (Pakistani female, Anupreet, recent immigrant ) Well it pushes me away from Pharmacy more, because I hate, I can’t do Biology or Chemistry, I’m just terrible at it. I think the only reason they want me to go into that is because my little sister’s very, she’s very smart and we’re all expecting her to be a doctor and they all want me to go into that as well … That kind of pushes me away from it. Like maybe you need a roof one day, so I’ll be there.” (female Pakistani heritage student who wants to be a mechanical engineer.)

16 PHM: Do you think your own background or your neighbourhood where you live might have an influence in your choices and decisions? Sabir (dropped maths and changed to business, taking an additional year in 6thf College):If you’re talking about my background as in community-wise then yeah, because everyone’s looking forward to seeing me go to University. My sister, my twin-sister already training at University already and it’s a great responsibility and pressure on me to go to University as well, no matter what course I choose they really are looking forward to me actually going to University now. In some ways yes it is. PHM:Your family environment is pushing you to go to University? Sabir:Yes. MP:How important is it for you to go to university? Punab (steered by Mum to computer science instead of drama):I have a lot of expectations to go to university. I mean the family, they all want me to go to university. MP:And are you the first one to go or anybody from your family....? P:No, I think my brother went so, yeah. But I guess every parent wants their children to go to university. MP:Have your parents gone to university, or...? P:I’m not sure, I didn’t really ask. But, I think every parent wants to see their children in that graduation kit.

17 Individualist discourse - happy parents, - my choice, as I like it, Discourse of “happy parents” and “my choice to do what I like”, Students used a discourse/model of individualism apparent to position themselves as independent decision makers – little overt recognition of connections/cultural influences (White British) Discourse can mask possible unvoiced parental and/or other influences on their decision-making; Discourse of individualism acted to hide social differences in White British students’ articulation of the cultural mediation of students’ educational decision- making. Social rules were less strongly classified (Bernstein) in their discourse, though class differences in the content of their talk in relation to the cultural mediation of university subject choice was sometimes evident, for example, with regard to cultural capital, direction, and financial support – i.e. cultures about the value of education are classed; See also Hernandez-Martinez et al (2008) “personal satisfaction repertoire”.

18 He [his Father] just says to me ‘Whatever you do I’m happy with’” (Christopher, working class). Lisa: Um, my Mum, my Dad isn’t really too bothered. He wants me to do whatever I want. My mum didn’t really want me to go to university, and I don’t know why, I just don’t think she wants me to leave home. MP: She doesn’t want you to leave home? What was she telling you? Lisa: She said wants me to try to get an apprentice, you know in what I want to do, but you can’t really, it’s quite difficult to find, so, I just don’t think she wants me to leave home. Lisa (working class)

19 Craig (Middle class) They don’t mind. They think it’s brilliant, yeah. I mean, going to university, my Mum obviously wants me to do that and she thinks it’s a brilliant opportunity and stuff and she keeps saying to me stuff like, if you want to stay and extra year, you stay an extra year. PHM: Now, about your decision to go into Veterinary. What do your parents think about that? Sarah (Middle class): I think they’re happy for me, whatever I’m doing. My Mum’s very good; she’ll support me in whatever I’m doing. Unless it’s something really ludicrous or a bit silly. They’ll really support me with it. PHM: What would you consider ludicrous? Sarah: Oh, I don’t know. (Indistinct). No, she said she’ll support me in whatever I’d choose to be honest. PHM: And your dad? Sarah: (Indistinct) whatever happens, so. IK: What do your parents think about your choices? J: I am not too sure. IK: You haven’t talked about it? J: Not really. I have talked to them a bit when I wasn’t sure whether to try and apply for a medicine degree or whether I shouldn’t. … They are happy with the choices I made

20 Existing Literature – exploring individualistic/relational collectivist models has been widely theorised - “Markus and Kitayama argued that American culture emphasizes the core cultural idea of independence by valuing attending to oneself and discovering and expressing individual qualities “while neither assuming nor valuing overt connectedness.” These values are reflected in educational and legal systems, employment and caretaking practices, and individual cognition, emotion and motivation. In contrast they argue that Asian culture emphasize interdependence by valuing the self and individuality as part of social context, connection among persons, and attending to and harmoniously coordinating with others.” cited in Cooper and Denner (1998); - Kusserow (1999) Eastern - sociocentric, Western - individualist selves; - See also Triandis and others; - Grounding theory in the context of our study in multicultural Britain at this time in history.

21 The interview data… findings -Supports Ethnic differences in discourses of university subject choice as being culturally produced; - Classification – not fixed –– but nevertheless two discourses aligning with White and Other groupings ; -Supports existing literature – in contrasting models “Western/Eastern” selves/identities; - Grounds these alternative ways of thinking about the self in the context of University subject-choice decision-making in multi-cultural Britain at this time in history; - Illuminates the questionnaire analysis.

22 Methodological Implications Research Methodology needs to account for the “unsaid”, the unrecognised cultural influences that may be invisible to members; Caution against literal interpretations of findings of “unawareness”; Development of more sensitive measures, which take account of the scope of cultural models used by students in their university subject-choice decision- making. Further work is needed.

23 University Subject Choice – Ethnic differences Connect with contemporary literature of university degree subject decision-making e.g. Reay (1998), Reay et al (2001), Ball et al, (2002) Connor (2004), Gorard et al (1999) Archer On ethnicity and subject choice e.g. Ahmad (2002), Ashworth and Evans (2001), Bhattacharya et al (2003) On cultural influences e.g. Whiting and Edwards (1988), Ball(1999), Chen, Chao (1995,1997) etc

24 Comments and Questions?

25 References Ahmad, F. (2002). Modern Traditions? British Muslim Women and Academic Achievement. Gender and Education, 13(2), 137 – 152. Ashworth, J., & Evans, J. L. (2001). Modeling student Subject choice at Secondary and Tertiary Level: A cross-Section Study. Journal of Economic Education, Fall, Ball, S. J., Davies, J., David, M. & Reay, D. (2002). ‘Classification’ and Judgement’: social class and the ‘cognitive structures’ of choice of Higher Education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 23(1), Bernstein, B. (2000), 'Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity: theory, research, critique (revised edition)'. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc. Bhattacharyya, G., Ison, L., & Blair, M. (2003). Minority Ethnic Attainment and Participation in Education and Training: the Evidence (DfES Research Topic Paper RTP01-03) London: DfES. Collins, P. H. (1999). Moving beyond gender: Intersectionality and scientific knowledge. In M. M. Feree, J. Lorber & B. Hess (Eds.), Revisioning Gender. London: Sage. Chao, R. K. (1994). Beyond parentalc ontrol and authoritarianp arenting style: Understanding Chinese parenting through the cultural notion of training. Child Development, 65, Chao, R. K. (1995). Chinese and European American Cultural Models of the self reflected in mothers' childrearing beliefs. Ethos, 23(3), Chen, C., & Uttal, D. H. (1988). Cultural values, parents' beliefs, and children's achievement in the United States and Canada. Human Development, 31, Connor, H. and Tyers, C. and Modood, T. and Hillage, J. (2004) Why the difference? A closer look at higher education minority ethnic students and graduates. Nottingham: Department for Education and SkillsWhy the difference? A closer look at higher education minority ethnic students and graduates. Cooper, C. R. & Denner, J. (1998). Theories linking culture and psychology, Universal and Community-specific processes. Annu. Rev. Psychol., 49,

26 References continued Davis, P., et al. (2008). Renegotiating identities: mediation of troubling AS Level Mathematics. TLRP-WP- Maths working paper. Gee, J. P. (1999). An introduction to discourse analysis: theory and method. London: Routledge. Gorard, S., Rees, G. & Fevre, R. (1999). Patterns of Participation in lifelong learning: do families make a difference?, British Educational Research Journal. Hernandez-Martinez, P., Black, L., Williams, J., Davis, P., Pampaka, M., Wake, G. (2008) 'Mathematics students’ aspirations for higher education: class, ethnicity, gender and interpretative repertoire styles', Research Papers in Education, Vol.23(2), Holland, D and Quinn, N (1987) Cultural Models in Language and Thought Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Holland, D, Lachicotte Jr, W, Skinner, D. Cain, C (1998) Identity and agency in cultural worlds Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press Hutcheson, G. (2008). Dispositions towards Mathematically-Demanding subjects. TLRP-WP-Maths working paper. Reay, D. (1998). Rethinking Social Class: Qualitative Perspectives on Class and Gender. Sociology,32, 259. Reay, D., Davies, J., David, M., & Ball, J.M. (2001). Choices of degrees or Degrees of choices? Class, ‘Race’ and the Higher Education choice process. Sociology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Siann, G., & Gallaghan, M. (2001). Choices and Barriers: factors influencing women's choice of higher education in science, engineering and technology. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 25(1), Triandis, H. C. (1994). Culture and social behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill.

27 Triandis, H.C. (1995). Individualism & collectivism. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Triandis, H. C. (1996). The psychological measurement cultural syndromes. American Psychologist, 51, van Dijk, T. A. (1998). Ideology: A multidisciplinary approach. London: Sage Publications. Wang, M. C. & Taylor, R. D. (Eds)(2000). Resilience Across Contexts. Routledge. Whiting, B. B., & Edwards, C. P. (1988). Children of Different Worlds: The formation of social behavior. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


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