Gender and performance in the GCE A level examination : gender-equity and the gold standard
This thesis investigates gender and performance in the GCE A level examination. It attempts to acquire deeper understanding of the factors that contribute to differential performance at 18+. It identifies a 'cross-over' in gender related patterns of performance in examinations between 16+ and 18+, uses a multi-method approach and a number of sources of data to explain the complex patterns observed. This thesis aims to identify the various factors that contribute to differential performance in examinations and to assess the extent of their influence. The impetus for the research stemmed from a concern that the A level examination has been relatively under-researched in relation to gender-equity issues in examination attainment. Previously, the focus of gender-related differences in examination performance had tended to concentrate on the compulsory stage of schooling. Little is known, therefore, about gender-related performance issues at 18+. In this questions specifically focus on the A level examination and are asked in relation to: how we account for gender-related differences in performance; the contribution of the assessment techniques used to these differences and whether there are content, contexts and tasks types used in these examinations that benefit one gender more than another. Data has been collected, analysed and interpreted from over 3,000 examination scripts, 200 questionnaire responses from secondary school teachers and nine school case studies. Teachers' and students' attitudes to, and perceptions of, gender-related attainment at 18+ are explored for their contribution to differential performance. Three subjects - English literature, mathematics and physics - are used to illustrate the issues that are being considered. This thesis contributes knowledge to the gender-equity debate at one of the most significant stages of examining in the UK. The debate is a complex one and the findings of this thesis reflect this. In this thesis, evidence from the data suggests that any future consideration of equity in relation to examination performance must concern itself not only with the assessment techniques used in the examination system, but also with the expectations, experiences and perceptions of teachers and students who are involved in these examinations.