Social class, pedagogic practice and achievement in science : a study of Secondary Schools in Portugal
The thesis is concerned to investigate differential patterns of achievement in the sciences in middle and upper sections of eight Portuguese secondary schools selected according to location (city, country) and social class composition of pupils. The total sample of pupils is 1300. Achievement is measured by the scores obtained over a period of one year in science tests created and given by the eleven teachers of the classes of the pupils. These tests are obliged by the Government to measure achievement in two ways. Firstly by questions testing the pupil's understanding of basic definitions and factual knowledge (A competencies) and secondly by questions testing pupil's powers to apply and generalise scientific knowledge to a range of problems (U competencies). The thesis presents an analysis of the teacher's competence in distinguishing between these two types of competencies and an analysis of the pedagogic classroom competence of the teachers in transmitting the required skills. The results show that the effectiveness of the pedagogic practice of the teachers is related to the social class background of the pupils. Analysis of the pupils' scores (A and U) reveals a strong relation with social class and within social class to the gender of the pupil. These relations are especially strong in the case of U competencies. A more delicate analysis was undertaken to examine the inter-relations between teacher's pedagogic practice, location of school, social composition of school's pupils and gender in order to isolate the conditions under which the school exerts a stronger influence upon achievement in science than the influence of the pupil's family background. A model derived from Bernstein's theory of cultural reproduction is used to interpret the results and to explore the possibilities for increasing the effectiveness of pedagogic practice.