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Title: Girls' perceptions of challenging work and the factors that motivate them to engage with challenging work within the selective independent sector
Author: Hannan, G. V.
ISNI:       0000 0004 8497 6923
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2016
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This study focuses on the perceptions of challenging work amongst girls in Years 9, 10 and 11 in single-sex schools in the selective independent sector, and of the factors that they perceive motivate them to engage with challenging work. Although many girls in English selective independent schools achieve amongst the highest GCSE and A Level results in the country, some teachers at these schools are concerned that the girls can be uncomfortable when they are encouraged to think for themselves. This can include girls who are perceived to be 'more able' in comparison with their peers. To understand how to encourage students in this sector to readily engage with challenging work, this study surveyed a total of 192 students in Years 9-11 from three selective independent girls' schools in North and Outer London via a survey that was created from focus group responses on the topic of challenging work. The findings from both the qualitative and quantitative data analyses are woven together to create a cross-sectional snapshot of student perceptions of challenging work. The findings suggest that the participants were able to offer rich descriptions of challenging work and that they felt moderately challenged by the work that they were given but that ultimately they desired, and their actions indicated a preference for, 'comfortable' rather than challenging work. They held performance goals in the guise of mastery goals, with GCSE examinations providing a key contextual factor affecting their readiness to engage with challenging work. The study concludes by suggesting that classrooms which are inspiring and challenging environments may help students to be motivated to engage with challenging work. Without this, selective girls' independent schools may be helping their students to achieve high grades without encouraging all to fully realise their academic potential.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available