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Findings from the research: understanding male participation and progression in higher education Ruth Woodfield Department of Sociology University of Sussex:

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Presentation on theme: "Findings from the research: understanding male participation and progression in higher education Ruth Woodfield Department of Sociology University of Sussex:"— Presentation transcript:

1 Findings from the research: understanding male participation and progression in higher education Ruth Woodfield Department of Sociology University of Sussex:

2 Overview Why focus on men? Why focus on men? Review of research in this area, focusing on 3 of my own studies Review of research in this area, focusing on 3 of my own studies Key take-home messages and questions arising from research Key take-home messages and questions arising from research Implications for the debate within HE Implications for the debate within HE

3 Why men? Gender wage and seniority gap exists for graduates so why focus on men? Gender wage and seniority gap exists for graduates so why focus on men? This is true and no signs of current HE advantage changing this This is true and no signs of current HE advantage changing this Womens advantage in HE participation and achievement matches mens in recent history Womens advantage in HE participation and achievement matches mens in recent history It is a fast-paced social change – requires understanding It is a fast-paced social change – requires understanding Not just men as focus, but men and women as two sides of coin Not just men as focus, but men and women as two sides of coin

4 Accounting for previous male domination of HE Challenges: Challenges: Then quantitative predominance linked to qualitative cultural dominance - change possible Then quantitative predominance linked to qualitative cultural dominance - change possible And muted challenges or defences: And muted challenges or defences: Men and women have relatively fixed differences: Men and women have relatively fixed differences: cognitivecognitive PersonalityPersonality BehaviouralBehavioural Leads to different choices Leads to different choices – change has limitations

5 Undertaking research on men in HE: the issues Disadvantage discourses are often vague, all- encompassing (accurate?), stable Disadvantage discourses are often vague, all- encompassing (accurate?), stable Historically much research Oxbridge-based – skewed results Historically much research Oxbridge-based – skewed results Uptake rate to research requests and tasks different to women Uptake rate to research requests and tasks different to women Self-report issue Self-report issue Much research on gender but focus is womens participation and progress; male is underside of coin Much research on gender but focus is womens participation and progress; male is underside of coin

6 Gender & Firsts study Men get more Firsts Men get more Firsts Key modes of explanation: Key modes of explanation: Gender-linked cognitive and personality trait differences Gender-linked cognitive and personality trait differences gender-differentiated dispositions gender-differentiated dispositions Men risk-takers, have flair; women conscientiousMen risk-takers, have flair; women conscientious Subject area differences: Subject area differences: Men are in the First-Rich disciplinesMen are in the First-Rich disciplines

7 Gender and Firsts… Analysed all graduates over 8 years Analysed all graduates over 8 years RESULTS: RESULTS: Mens dominance of Firsts was weakening yearly Mens dominance of Firsts was weakening yearly Largely due to dominance in First-rich disciplines Largely due to dominance in First-rich disciplines Women in these disciplines tended to be awarded more Firsts than men Women in these disciplines tended to be awarded more Firsts than men Key messages: Key messages: Effect of gender-differentiated traits was marginal Effect of gender-differentiated traits was marginal We were looking at an intrinsically social phenomenon (Richardson 2004: 324) We were looking at an intrinsically social phenomenon (Richardson 2004: 324) Key question: What can we do about on-course organisation? Should we persuade more women into Science? Key question: What can we do about on-course organisation? Should we persuade more women into Science?

8 Gender & Attendance study Tracked 650 students over 3 years exploring effects of measured traits, abilities, background and behaviour and attendance on degree performance Tracked 650 students over 3 years exploring effects of measured traits, abilities, background and behaviour and attendance on degree performance 39 completed online attendance reports 39 completed online attendance reports RESULTS: RESULTS: Pre-entry qualifications and some personality traits influenced, absences were a strong and independent predictor of degree result and men missed more teaching sessions = men achieved less Pre-entry qualifications and some personality traits influenced, absences were a strong and independent predictor of degree result and men missed more teaching sessions = men achieved less Men were NOT conscientious participants! Men were NOT conscientious participants!

9 Gender & Attendance… Gender & Attendance… Key messages: There are important differences between men and women in relation to behaviour once in HE, not just before entry Key messages: There are important differences between men and women in relation to behaviour once in HE, not just before entry Key question: Is there less capacity/willingness in men to conform to institutional requirements? If so, what should we call it? What is developing it? How could it be addressed? Key question: Is there less capacity/willingness in men to conform to institutional requirements? If so, what should we call it? What is developing it? How could it be addressed?

10 Gender and Coursework study Piries position – Mancession discourse - men disadvantaged because of feminised HE Piries position – Mancession discourse - men disadvantaged because of feminised HE 638 students performance on coursework and unseen exams analysed 638 students performance on coursework and unseen exams analysed 390 students gave online interviews about preferences 390 students gave online interviews about preferences

11 Gender and Coursework RESULTS: RESULTS: Women outperformed men on both modes of assessment and both outperformed on CW Women outperformed men on both modes of assessment and both outperformed on CW Both preferred CW and felt it fairer measure of achievement Both preferred CW and felt it fairer measure of achievement Strong sense that Weils learner identity (1986) may be gendered – Men working less hard, expressing more confidence but achieving less.Strong sense that Weils learner identity (1986) may be gendered – Men working less hard, expressing more confidence but achieving less. Key messages: prevailing commonsense understanding may be wrong – dont act on them Key messages: prevailing commonsense understanding may be wrong – dont act on them Key question: Is the gender regime of HE now female? If so, in what way? What does this mean? Given the results, why suspicion about CW? Key question: Is the gender regime of HE now female? If so, in what way? What does this mean? Given the results, why suspicion about CW?

12 Can and should we target men? Given what we know about women learners, wont they be further advantaged by anything that seeks to target men? Does this matter? Given what we know about women learners, wont they be further advantaged by anything that seeks to target men? Does this matter? What would a targeted policy to recruit and retain men look like? What would a targeted policy to recruit and retain men look like? Attend to our part of the leaky pipeline Attend to our part of the leaky pipeline

13 What to do next? Collect data carefully – ensure accurate basis for action Collect data carefully – ensure accurate basis for action Ask students Ask students Focus on which men: The white male is our problem (HMSO 2009) Focus on which men: The white male is our problem (HMSO 2009) Pilot strategies in different contexts – one size will not fit all Pilot strategies in different contexts – one size will not fit all Look at what has worked before and elsewhere Look at what has worked before and elsewhere Gender clustering, mentoring etc. Gender clustering, mentoring etc. Think local? Think local?


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