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Pupil Choices at Key Stage 3

Pupil Choices at Key Stage 3

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National Foundation for Educational Research
 
PUPIL CHOICES AT KEY STAGE 3 –LITERATURE REVIEW
Tami McCroneMarian MorrisMatthew WalkerJune 2005
 
YPM
 
 
Contents
pageExecutive Summary 1
 
1.
 
Introduction 4
 
1.1
 
The context of the study 4
 
2.
 
Search strategy and methods 9
 
2.1
 
Search methodology 9
 
2.2
 
Search strategy 10
 
2.3
 
Selection process 11
 
2.4
 
Review processes 12
 
2.5
 
Focus of reviewed literature 13
 
2.6
 
Analysis 14
 
3. Recent trends in optional GCSEs 16
 
4.
 
Structural dimensions of young people’s choice 20
 
4.1
 
Does choice exist? 21
 
4.2
 
Structural factors influencing choice 23
 
4.3
 
School Support Mechanisms 28
 
4.4
 
Summary 31
 
5.
 
Individual aspects of young people’s choice 32
 
5.1
 
Perceptions of subjects 33
 
5.2
 
Young people’s perception of ability 37
 
5.3 Apparent influences 38
 
5.4
 
Teacher influence on subject choice 40
 
5.5
 
The influence of other people 41
 
5.6
 
Preconceptions of subjects 41
 
5.7
 
Opportunity awareness 43
 
5.8
 
Summary 45
 
6. Key messages and implications 46
 
6.1
 
In summary 47
 
6.2
 
Emerging messages for research 49
 
References 53
 
Appendix 1
 
Research questions 57
 
Appendix 2
 
Keywords 60
 
Appendix 3
 
Framework for reviewing relevant research 70
 
Appendix 4
 
The scope of studies in the in-depth review 71
 
 
1
Executive Summary
Context
Much of the research to date on decision making has concentrated on keyStage 4 (for example Foskett
et al.,
2004
1
and Payne, 2003
2
) and whilst thishas necessarily yielded little on Key Stage 3, it has indicated that bothindividual attributes and structural factors play a significant part in thedecision-making process.In order to better understand decision-making at key stage 3 the DfES, in2005, commissioned a brief literature review of pupil choices at key stage 3.This report reviews recent key studies in the UK on the ways in which youngpeople, at age 14, choose their optional subjects or study pathways.Much of the published research has focused on the nature and influence of individual attributes on young people’s option choices rather than on the partplayed by structural factors, and so there is a relative paucity of evidence onmany aspects of decision-making at age 14. There appear to have been somechanges in the subject choices young people make at Key Stage 3 since 1999,although the major gender differences that were observed in Year 9 pupils’choice of subjects have not changed markedly.
Key Findings
None of the identified studies focused in detail on the complex interplaybetween the different elements of the decision-making process, concentratinginstead on specific issues or focusing on particular elements of the decision-making process such as individual attributes and structural factors.
Individual attributes
There is evidence that most Year 9 pupils chose their options because
they‘enjoyed’ a subject or had an inherent liking or interest in it.
Theresearch is less clear on what influences this enjoyment and the extent towhich various factors, for example teaching methodology, sway youngpeople to like a subject.
Year 9 pupils also appeared to consider the
apparent usefulness of asubject to future careers, jobs or training.
The extent to which thisperceived usefulness is attributed to school factors, to local employmentand training aspects, or to parents, is not clear from the research.
1
FOSKETT, N ., DYKE, M. and MARINGE, F. (2004).
The influence of the School in the Decision to Participate in Learning Post-16 
(DfES Research Report 538). London:DfES
2
PAYNE, J. (2003).
Choice at the End of Compulsory Schooling: a Research Review
(DfESResearch Report 414). London: DfES

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