An analysis of the decision making processes and criteria applied by adolescents selecting A level subjects and place of study
The research was stimulated by involvement in leading elements of an Education Management programme. Developing part of the teaching material led to the realisation that while pupils' choice of school has been extensively researched it appeared that subject choice, particularly at A level had not. It also became apparent that ideas and models concerning decision making, extensively adopted within the Consumer Behaviour literature had not been applied in this context. Extensive reviews ofthe literature confirmed this position and indicated that the post sixteen school choice was also under researched and further that it was not possible to apply extant consumer behaviour models directly to the A level or School choice contexts. The research programme consisted of a mixture of qualitative and quantitative techniques. Building on elements of theory, from the literature, exploratory research employing focus groups was used to develop an initial model of adolescent pupil decision making. Early in the exploratory research it was found that the decision for adolescents choosing where to study their A levels was inextricably linked to choice of subjects. Choice of A level subjects was added to the research programme. Based on the exploratory results a quantitative study, using questionnaires, was developed to test the model on both single (choosing a school) and multiple (choosing A level subjects) choice situations. The study investigated differences between single-choice and multiple-choice decision making, an area neglected by consumer research, which provides at least a partial explanation of the process used by the pupils when they choose schools/colleges and A level subjects. Findings identify that although some aspects ofthe choice process are similar, there are important differences between the two types of decision. Evoked set are larger for multiple-choice decisions, and multi-choice decisions are likely to involve more stages in the decision making process than single-choice decisions. The results also identified that the parents' role has changed from 'decider', when their children were younger, to 'influencer', with the adolescent pupils becoming the decision makers. Concomitantly, choice criteria are shown to have evolved with 'discipline' decreasing markedly in importance and subject range increasing. The pre-eminence of personal sources of information is confinued but co-orientation emphasised.