Sociology AQA Alevel - METHODS IN CONTEXT QUESTION HELP Watch

chto1234
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Item A
Investigating the ways in which classroom interactions reinforce traditional gender identities.
Some sociologists have pointed to the ease with which traditional gender identities can be reinforced in classroom interaction. Verbal abuse and other more subtle processes such as the ‘male gaze’ can have an impact on gender identity. Sociologists have found that some male teachers may even collude with male pupils in ‘putting down’ girls. Sociologists may use non-participant observation to investigate the ways in which classroom interactions reinforce traditional gender identities. Observing classroom behaviour at first hand enables researchers to see what actually goes on rather than getting a verbal account after the event. There is also the potential for greater insight through direct experience of classroom interaction. However, it is very difficult for the observer to avoid being noticed and this can affect the behaviour both of teachers and of pupils.

Applying material from item A and your knowledge of research methods, evaluate the strengths and limitations of non-participant observation for the study of ways in which classroom interactions reinforce traditional gender identities. (20 marks)
What do I need to include for this question? Any key points?
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AKinkAdmirer
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(Original post by chto1234)
Item A
Investigating the ways in which classroom interactions reinforce traditional gender identities.
Some sociologists have pointed to the ease with which traditional gender identities can be reinforced in classroom interaction. Verbal abuse and other more subtle processes such as the ‘male gaze’ can have an impact on gender identity. Sociologists have found that some male teachers may even collude with male pupils in ‘putting down’ girls. Sociologists may use non-participant observation to investigate the ways in which classroom interactions reinforce traditional gender identities. Observing classroom behaviour at first hand enables researchers to see what actually goes on rather than getting a verbal account after the event. There is also the potential for greater insight through direct experience of classroom interaction. However, it is very difficult for the observer to avoid being noticed and this can affect the behaviour both of teachers and of pupils.

Applying material from item A and your knowledge of research methods, evaluate the strengths and limitations of non-participant observation for the study of ways in which classroom interactions reinforce traditional gender identities. (20 marks)
What do I need to include for this question? Any key points?
Hmm, tricky one! I apologise in advance if I say anything here that's already obvious to you, I'm not trying to be patronising and I'm sorry if anything comes across that way, or if I'm no help. :P
In the introduction, to show you've decoded the question properly, explain what kind of sociologists would use non-participant observation, i.e Interactionists and structuration theorists because this method produces qualitative data. Then I'd suggest briefly explaining why it is necessary to research gender identity in schools, e.g because of the gender differences in both subject choice and attainment. You can pull from the item here, for example by quoting 'verbal abuse' as a negative effect of gender identities which should be uncovered so it can be prevented.

Right, onto the strengths and limitations!
The item gives you the following strengths:
First-hand evidence
Potential for greater insight
Both of these mean this method can give data high in validity.
You could expand on the first-hand evidence by discussing the male gaze (using the item again). As this could be quite subjective this could be something the researcher can only prove occurs through observation as second-hand accounts of it occurring will be inconclusive. However as evaluation you could say that this also means the researcher may project their own biased viewpoint onto what is occurring, especially if they are only observing for a short period of time. They may think they are witnessing the male gaze, when in fact they are witnessing a look related to some in-joke between the pupils for example. This means the potential for greater insight depends on the researcher's ability to abandon his/her preconceptions, which could perhaps be done by having both a male and a female researcher observing simultaneously.
Another strength you could write about is that non-participant observation is more ethical than participant observation, as there is less opportunity for the researcher to influence the actions of the researched. However the researcher may find it difficult to stay uninvolved, particularly if they witness upsetting events such as the collusion of male teachers and pupils to put down girls that the item describes.

The main limitation described in the item is that the prescence of the researcher can influence the behaviour of teachers and pupils. This is called the Hawthorne effect. For example, pupil who normally display a hyper-heterosexual identity (you could refer to Louise Archer's research here) may tone their gender expression down in the prescence of a stranger. Also, teachers may make a special effort to avoid sexist behaviour when observed as it could reflect badly on the school. This makes the research less valid. The issue of teachers changing their behaviour links to another disadvantage: access. School staff may act as gatekeepers and forbid access to the researcher because they don't want the school to be presented in a negative light. Conversely, schools which have made a special effort to reduce gender inequality and promote more transgressive gender identities (for example through introducing policies such as GIST and WISE) may be more welcoming to researchers. This makes the data collected less representative, as it may only represent the schools in which there is already more gender equality. Researchers could try to overcome this by entering schools under false pretences and doing their observation covertly but this would be practically very difficult as the item says, and it may go against their ethical values.
Another limitation is that non-participant observation is a small-scale method low in representativeness, so the findings from a few schools cannot be generalised. This means that this method may have a low or nonexistent level of influence on education policies, meaning that even if it uncovers issues such as negative gender stereotyping it may not result in any improvements being made.
Those are the main strengths and limitations I can think of offhand, though I'm sure there are others!
Also, whenever you do methods in context or research methods, remember to consider the
Practical issues
Ethical issues
Reliability
Validity
Representativeness
Theoretical approach
associated with the method. PERVeRT as an acronym if you need one to remember.

In your conclusion, say how useful you think this method is in this context and refer to another method you think could be triangulated with non-participant observation to improve results. Or if you conclude that non-participant observation is a really weak method to use in this context, suggest an alternative method and give some brief justification.

I hope some of that helped!
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abbylake2000
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(Original post by AKinkAdmirer)
Hmm, tricky one! I apologise in advance if I say anything here that's already obvious to you, I'm not trying to be patronising and I'm sorry if anything comes across that way, or if I'm no help. :P
In the introduction, to show you've decoded the question properly, explain what kind of sociologists would use non-participant observation, i.e Interactionists and structuration theorists because this method produces qualitative data. Then I'd suggest briefly explaining why it is necessary to research gender identity in schools, e.g because of the gender differences in both subject choice and attainment. You can pull from the item here, for example by quoting 'verbal abuse' as a negative effect of gender identities which should be uncovered so it can be prevented.

Right, onto the strengths and limitations!
The item gives you the following strengths:
First-hand evidence
Potential for greater insight
Both of these mean this method can give data high in validity.
You could expand on the first-hand evidence by discussing the male gaze (using the item again). As this could be quite subjective this could be something the researcher can only prove occurs through observation as second-hand accounts of it occurring will be inconclusive. However as evaluation you could say that this also means the researcher may project their own biased viewpoint onto what is occurring, especially if they are only observing for a short period of time. They may think they are witnessing the male gaze, when in fact they are witnessing a look related to some in-joke between the pupils for example. This means the potential for greater insight depends on the researcher's ability to abandon his/her preconceptions, which could perhaps be done by having both a male and a female researcher observing simultaneously.
Another strength you could write about is that non-participant observation is more ethical than participant observation, as there is less opportunity for the researcher to influence the actions of the researched. However the researcher may find it difficult to stay uninvolved, particularly if they witness upsetting events such as the collusion of male teachers and pupils to put down girls that the item describes.

The main limitation described in the item is that the prescence of the researcher can influence the behaviour of teachers and pupils. This is called the Hawthorne effect. For example, pupil who normally display a hyper-heterosexual identity (you could refer to Louise Archer's research here) may tone their gender expression down in the prescence of a stranger. Also, teachers may make a special effort to avoid sexist behaviour when observed as it could reflect badly on the school. This makes the research less valid. The issue of teachers changing their behaviour links to another disadvantage: access. School staff may act as gatekeepers and forbid access to the researcher because they don't want the school to be presented in a negative light. Conversely, schools which have made a special effort to reduce gender inequality and promote more transgressive gender identities (for example through introducing policies such as GIST and WISE) may be more welcoming to researchers. This makes the data collected less representative, as it may only represent the schools in which there is already more gender equality. Researchers could try to overcome this by entering schools under false pretences and doing their observation covertly but this would be practically very difficult as the item says, and it may go against their ethical values.
Another limitation is that non-participant observation is a small-scale method low in representativeness, so the findings from a few schools cannot be generalised. This means that this method may have a low or nonexistent level of influence on education policies, meaning that even if it uncovers issues such as negative gender stereotyping it may not result in any improvements being made.
Those are the main strengths and limitations I can think of offhand, though I'm sure there are others!
Also, whenever you do methods in context or research methods, remember to consider the
Practical issues
Ethical issues
Reliability
Validity
Representativeness
Theoretical approach
associated with the method. PERVeRT as an acronym if you need one to remember.

In your conclusion, say how useful you think this method is in this context and refer to another method you think could be triangulated with non-participant observation to improve results. Or if you conclude that non-participant observation is a really weak method to use in this context, suggest an alternative method and give some brief justification.

I hope some of that helped!

Oh my god this is SUPER helpful, thank you! I was literally set this essay today and had no idea where to start xD
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