National Report GREECE


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1 National Report GREECE WP4 Empirical Research Results IACM/FORTH May 2007
2 PREMA Work Package 4 Empirical Research Results 1 Table of Contents Introduction... 1 Samples and Study Types... 6 Major studies... 8 First Study: Lyceum Pupils... 8 Context... 8 Quantitative study... 9 Qualitative study Second Study: Lyceum Teachers Third Study: University students Fourth Study: Policy Makers Conclusions APPENDIX Annex A Annex B Annex C Annex D... 77
3 The scope of this document is to report on the findings of a series of four studies in the thematic orientation of gender and mathematics carried out in Heraklion, Greece and in the context of the PREMA (Promoting Equality in Maths Achievement) Project. The aim of the document is to highlight the elements in the teaching/learning process that positively influence the outcomes of pupil s school education whether from a cognitive or from a professional orientation perspective. The PREMA project was an attempt to deepen understanding of the sociocultural and pedagogical factors that impede upon girls achievement/performance in mathematics (and as a consequence in technology) which in turn affects women s representation in areas of social and economic importance. Under this scope research activities were carried out and data was gathered from school actors (pupils, teachers, university students as school graduates, and policy makers) to investigate into the issue of gender and mathematics. In order to identify parameters that could reduce the gender difference in mathematics special attention was given to factors like motivation and lack of confidence, that appear to constitute constraints to girl s performance/achievement in mathematics. In this Report the empirical studies undertaken and the results obtained from the conduct of research activity are presented after a short introduction into the Greek educational system. The studies conducted were carried out using methodologies of quantitative (questionnaires) and qualitative (interviews and discussions) research. Introduction According to the Hellenic Research Center for Gender Equality the apparent gender discrimination in the present educational system does not concern the possibilities and opportunities to women to reach different educational levels, but their choices and orientations concerning fields of study and vocational training. It is perhaps characteristic of the place of women in the Greek society that the recent World Economic Forum report on Women s Eurowerment: Measuring the Global Gender Gap 9 ranked Greece 50 th out of 58 countries that were studied. 9 See
4 PREMA Work Package 4 Empirical Research Results 2 The administration of the Greek educational system is highly centralized. The Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs directly or indirectly finances and regulates almost every aspect of school life in public primary and secondary education schools despite the decentralization efforts that delegated some responsibilities, mainly related to school maintenance, other operational costs and extracurricular activities to Municipalities. The most characteristic indication of the centralization of the system is school curricula which, in most of the cases, are defined in almost every detail by the Ministry of Education. The curricula set the aims and objectives for almost all courses that should be taught in every elementary and secondary education school. The control over what should be taught is supported by schoolbooks (for pupils and teachers) and clearly defined weekly timetables which describe the duration of lessons and the number of school hours that should be devoted in each course and specific schoolbook chapter. In this way it is traditionally assumed that all pupils will get the same kind of teaching and knowledge, irrespective of other sorts of inequalities that might exist outside the school walls. The system as a whole is characterized by a certain degree of inconsistency in its centralization because in classrooms teachers can choose to use any teaching method they want and they generally enjoy a high degree of freedom, which is basically defined by the specific school traditions and school culture. Recent attempts by the Ministry of Education to introduce teachers' evaluation through formal procedures have faced a strong opposition by teachers' unions. The comprehensive program of mathematics studies in Primary and Secondary Education Mathematics curricula in primary and secondary education are defined by the Ministry of Education and are compulsory to both public and private education schools. The Act 2525 of 1997 paved the way for the development and implementation of a comprehensive mathematics curriculum for all grades of Elementary schools, Gymnasiums and Unified Lyceums (Circular, Ministry of Education, 21/12/ ). The philosophy of the program is based on a mixture of behavioral and constructivistic principles. On the one hand it recognizes the primacy of pupils' involvement in meaningful activities that help them 10 See [In Greek, 3/3/2006] 2
5 PREMA Work Package 4 Empirical Research Results 3 build knowledge on their own and on the other side it also stresses that when applicable, these activities should also be translated into measurable levels of attainment. Since 2001 the Pedagogic Institute under the Ministry of Education is developing a new approach to the teaching of mathematics within a Cross Curricular/Thematic Framework (C.C.T.F1), which introduces a crossthematic approach to teaching and learning. In parallel, new curricula are designed, new school books and other materials have been introduced in the academic year and inservice training programs are implemented to help teachers of all levels develop the knowledge and skills necessary for the implementation of crosscurricular activities. Data from the 2003 PISA study show that the mathematics performance of 15yrs old pupils in Greece is below average among the 44 OECD and partner countries that participated in the research. What is particularly relevant in the context of this report is that gender differences in performance among Greek pupils in all four PISA mathematics performance subscales (space and shape, change and relationships, quantity and uncertainty) appears to be statistically significant in favor of male pupils (PISA 2003, p ). Characteristically, Greece ranked among the top 4 countries in with significant differences in the overall mathematics performance scale between male (mean score 455) and female (mean score 436) pupils (ibid., Table 2.5c, p.356). Furthermore, the percentages female pupils reaching performance level 2 or below are consistently larger than these of male pupils; this picture reverses in favor of male pupils for levels 3 and above. Higher Secondary Education (Isced level 3) Higher Secondary Education consists of two major school types: Unified Lyceums (UL) and Technical Vocational Education Schools (TVEs) (Acts 2525/1997 and 2640/1998). For both types of schools the typical pupil is aged between 15,5 and 18 yrs old although in TVEs it is not rare to find older pupils. The duration of studies in Unified Lyceums is three years (Grades A to C ). In total, male pupils represent the 46,7% and female pupils the 53,3% of the pupils population, proportionally represented in public schools Unified Lyceums. In private schools pupil population is more or less equally split among male and female pupils. 11 OECD, (2004). Learning for Tomorrow s World. First Results from PISA
6 PREMA Work Package 4 Empirical Research Results 4 The first Unified Lyceum grade is characterized as orientation grade. Similarly to Elementary schools and Gymnasiums, Grade A pupils have to attend to a set of compulsory courses but this time they can also choose a free choice course. Grade B Unified Lyceum pupils can follow different itineraries because the curriculum apart from a set of compulsory for all General Education courses, offers the pupils with the opportunity to choose among sets of compulsory courses organized under three different orientations, the Theoretical orientation, the Science orientation and the Technological orientation. Furthermore, the pupils have to choose an orientation course from a list of freechoice courses. Theoretical orientation pupils have to attend to general education mathematics lessons 4 hours weekly (12,1% of their weekly school time). They do not have to attend to an ICTrelated course, unless they choose to attend to the freechoice Information Technology Applications. These pupils who choose either the science orientation have to also attend to mathematics lessons 3 more hours weekly (in total 21,2% of their weekly school time). Similarly to theoretical orientation pupils, they do not have to attend to the freechoice ICTrelated course. Technological orientation pupils, similarly to science pupils, have to spend 7 hours weekly in mathematics, but also they have to attend to the 2h p/w ICTrelated course Communication Technology (6% of weekly time). Normally they also choose the 2h p/w freechoice Information Technology Applications. School life in Grade C is almost entirely defined by the demands of the nationwide examination system that provides pupils with the opportunity to get access to high and higher education institutions. Pupils at Grade C can follow different itineraries depending on what they want to study at tertiary education level and this results in the formation of classrooms based on pupils personal choices. The school year as with the other two Lyceum grades is divided in two fourmonth periods. By the end of each period the pupils get an oral mark for each course. By the end of school year there are 4
7 PREMA Work Package 4 Empirical Research Results 5 schoollevel exams for each course. The final mark of each pupil for each course is the average of the two oral marks and the school level exam mark. Provided that pupils average mark is over 9,5 out of 20 they get a graduation certificate which entitles them to sit the National Level Exams which take place on late May of each academic year. Similarly to Grade B, U.L. Grade C pupils have to follow different itineraries depending on the Scientific Field and orientation of their choice. The Technological orientation in Grade C is divided in two circles: Technology and Production and Information Technologies and Services. In total, all pupils have to spend 16 hours weekly in General Education courses (53,3% of their weekly school time), presented on the table that follows. The rest 14 hours weekly they have to spend attending to lessons of their orientation courses (12 in compulsory and 2 in freechoice courses, 46,7% in total). According to nationwide data obtained by the Ministry of Education for the year and reported by Maragoudaki (2003) the within gender percentages of pupils in the last grade of U.L. (Day and Afternoon) (n=70,829) by orientation indicated that most of the female pupils (55,22%) follow the Theoretical orientation while on the other side, male pupils show a clear preference on the Technological: ICT and Services and Science orientation. As Maragoudaki points out, the above data clearly show that gender remains a main factor of differentiation in education. At Gymnasium there are no formal nationwide tests in mathematics. Every year, however, the organizes a nationwide test named Thales for pupils in Gymnasium grades B' and C' and in all three grades of Lyceum The results of the nationwide Thales tests (organized by the Hellenic Mathematical Society) show that from grade to grade the successful U.L. pupils are increasingly male. The gap in terms of differences in percentages of successful male and female pupils by grade from almost 15% in the Gymnasium B grade becomes almost 2,5 times bigger in grade C of U.L. Overall, the National Exams results for mathematics show that the level of mathematics performance is not particularly good. The data for the academic year show that with the exception of the 5
8 PREMA Work Package 4 Empirical Research Results 6 science orientation there is a high percentage of pupils whose marks in mathematics is below the middle of the 020 scale. Data on already employed mathematics teachers in secondary education show that this is a male dominated profession as male teachers represent more than 70% of the teachers. Prevailing Teaching Context The Greek educational system despite the existing laws that have a liberal ideology, is governed by the principle of traditional fieldcentered curricula that promote a rather passive attitude towards learning. Everyday educational practices focus on transmitting and acquiring fixed knowledge and adopt mainly traditional teaching methods. School education is basically teachercentered and the assessment of pupils is at the core of the teaching/learning process. Pupils are evaluated on the basis of their participation in daily classroom work as well as their performance in different types of tests and written exams. In a typical math teaching hour the teacher answers questions pupils have regarding the homework, asks some pupils to show their work in the blackboard, presents the new material, replies to pupils questions, provides them with exercises/problems to practice (usually a pupil is asked to work on the blackboard) and assigns homework problems. Pupils work individually and is rather rare that group work is assigned. There is an effort from the Pedagogical Institute especially through the introduction of the Cross Curricular/Thematic Framework, to incorporate different activities in the teaching process but teachers are faced with many problems that prevent them from using childcentered active and participatory teaching and learning approaches. The time variable is perhaps the most importance problem since, as described above, clearly defined weekly timetables have to be met. It is the teachers obligation and the pupils demand to complete the testcentered material included in the textbooks and there is only a very restricted amount of time left to use for inspiring activities in the classroom. Samples and Study Types In the period between October to mid December 2006 data was gathered for the four studies that were conducted in Greece the first concerns pupils self perception in relation to mathematics. Data was gathered through questionnaires and classroom discussions. The second study aimed at gaining an 6
9 PREMA Work Package 4 Empirical Research Results 7 insight into the math teachers reflections on gender education in mathematics (using data gathered through a questionnaire). The third study concerns the reflections of female high achievers in school mathematics currently university students. Interviews were conducted using a semistructured protocol. The last study focuses on the policy makers level of awareness regarding mathematics and gender (data were gathered through an interview process). In all four studies the instrumentation used was developed within the context of PREMA. These studies complement and supplement each other in the sense that each concerns a subpopulation of the educational sector. The aim of these studies is to shed light to attitudes, perception and practices that will enhance the understanding on factors that contribute to pupils (especially girls) choices to orient towards mathematics and related careers, as well as the teachers impact on their pupils decisions. In other words the identification of factors that contribute to the development of pupil identity, self concept regarding mathematics and math related career choices were in the center of the research design. The policy makers perspective was also investigated to identify the extend to which awareness development and policies and/or actions have been undertaken regarding gender and mathematics. The instruments used were produced by the University of Durham in the context of the project. Each instrument was translated into Greek and localized to reflect the Greek school reality. Each instrument was also tested before given to the study target groups and the required from the field testing, revisions were made. The instrument used and their English translation are appended to this Report. The data gathered were recorded, adjusted, analysed and their synthesis is presented in this Report. In the first study 111 pupils answered PREMA s quantitative questionnaires (45 boys and 66 girls) and 40 of them participated in the qualitative study (16 boys and 24 girls). In the other three studies that were of qualitative nature participated a) 23 math teachers (15 men and 8 women), b) four female university students, and c) two policy makers. 7
10 PREMA Work Package 4 Empirical Research Results 8 Major studies FIRST STUDY: LYCEUM PUPILS The focus of this study was to capture pupils views and attitudes that spring from their personal experience and have contributed to identity development, motivation and beliefs about mathematics attainment as well as projected career/study choices. Questionnaires were designed to elicit information about the factors that were perceived as being most important to pupils when making decisions about mathematics related orientation, and also to elicit pupils views about their self perceptions on each of these factors. Context The study was conducted in seven schools in the city of Heraklion, six of which are public and one private. In Greece pupils attend schools on the base of their residence address. Chosen to participate in the study were four of the public schools that are centrally located and/or are considered to have better than average pupils in relation to the city lyceums (these are located in the more affluent neighborhoods), one lyceum close to the city center, that corresponds to a more deprived neighborhood (the majority of the pupils are not high achievers) and the Experimental Lyceum of Heraklion in which pupils from the whole Heraklion area attend (as these are randomly selected) and is considered to be a rather competitive school. It was assumed that the study results from this set of schools would be as close to the whole picture as possible and not just capture a snapshot of the reality. The target group of the study was 2 nd grade lyceum pupils that are considered to be by their teachers, high achievers in math. Selected were the pupils that had the best exam and final scores/grades in mathematics in the previous year. Before presenting the outcomes of the pupils responses a few words concerning the lyceum orientations should be repeated. Pupils upon entering the 2 nd grade have to decide which of the 3 orientations to follows: the theoretical, the technological or the science one. For simplicity purposes, here the last two will be treated as one and will be called technological orientation. The relation between lyceum and the entrance examination to the university in Greece is very strong. It is the orientation followed that determines in which university department a pupil can apply to and the grades from the final exams of the 3 rd grade of lyceum that determines in which department he or she will be accepted (for details please refer to the Introduction Section). 8
11 PREMA Work Package 4 Empirical Research Results 9 For PREMA research purposes data was gathered primarily from pupils attending the technological orientation, and for comparison reasons, a small number from pupils of the theoretical one. Both a quantitative and qualitative approach was applied. Quantitative study This study was conducted in the period between November 1 st to 17 th, 2006 and 111 pupils, of both orientations, of the 2 nd Lyceum Grade participated (45 boys and 66 girls). The pupils were selected on the base on their final grade in mathematics of the 1 st Lyceum. In case too many pupils in a school had high grades the mark of the final written exam was used as criterion. The Supervisor of Mathematics Education of the Prefecture of Heraklion along with an IACM researcher made arrangement with the public school masters for administering the PREMA quantitative questionnaire (a teaching hour was allocated). In the case of the private school the mathematics teacher administered the questionnaires. Presented below are the key findings of the study based on the responses of 106 pupils (65 girls and 41 boys). The rest (five questionnaires) were not analyzed since only a few entries were completed. The majority of the pupils 83 in total of which 45 are girls and 38 boys, are attending the technological orientation and girls and 3 boys, the theoretical one. It has to be mentioned that although the administered questionnaires contained more questions than the PREMA design foresaw the reported conclusions are based on the common part of the instrument. In Greece the grading scale is from 0 to 20. The selected pupils had a grade of at least 17 and 80% of them greater than The percentage of those reporting a straight 20 is 27%. The diagram that follows and summarizes pupils responses to the question regarding their selfperception towards mathematics is of particular interest. Choose one sentence, which best describes you? I am good at Maths I am OK at Maths I am not very good at Maths 9
12 PREMA Work Package 4 Empirical Research Results 10 Pupils' Self Perception on Mathematics Performance 3,00 2,95 2,90 2,85 2,80 2,75 2,70 Girls Boys Average 2,65 2,60 2,55 All 18.5 up A small difference between girls and boys can be seen even amongst those that have a mark 18.5 or higher. From all the pupils there is just one girl (grade 18, following the theoretical orientation) that feels not being very good at Maths. Among the pupils having a grade greater than 19 there are two boys and six girls (one of them with a straight 20) that replied I am OK at Maths. From the above findings a gender difference seems to appear. Following discussed are the main results that spring from the pupils responses to questions Q4.I1. Q4.I16. of the instrument (Annex A). Key issues that were addressed are: Experiences of mathematics (enjoyment; enjoying challenges, and finding interesting problems in mathematics; being interested; enjoyment of the certainty ; dislike of its routineness) Examination success in mathematics and self perception of being good at mathematics The need for mathematics in a possible future career The role of peers interest in the study of maths The influence of parents and teachers on decision making Pupils were asked how important each of a number of factors was in deciding which orientation to follow. Each factor presented as a statement, was rated on a 4 point scale, from Not Important to 10
13 PREMA Work Package 4 Empirical Research Results 11 Important. These ratings were then assigned a numerical code from 0 to 3. Pupils were also asked how much they agreed with each statement, on a scale from Strongly Agee to Strongly Disagree and the above ratings were again assigned. The diagram that follows presents the mean responses for boys and girls to each statement, in terms of its importance in making a decision about which orientation to follow. 0: Not Important / 3: Very Important My parents gave me confidence to make my own decisions about orientation and career My teachers gave me confidence to make my own decisions about orientation and career My friends will be studying maths My teachers want me to do it My parents want me to do it I want to do it I will need it for my future career I enjoy challenges mathematics has lots of interesting questions I can show people how clever I am by being good at mathematics Boys Girls I like getting better results than others in maths I dislike the routineness of maths too boring I like the certainty of mathematics, knowing where you are, and when you have learned things I did well in recent mathematics examinations I am interested in mathematics I am good at mathematics I enjoy mathematics as a subject 0 0,5 1 1,5 2 2,5 3 From the above diagram it can be seen that the factors under investigation influence, to a degree, differently boys and girls in their decision making. These differences are less apparent when one 11
14 PREMA Work Package 4 Empirical Research Results 12 examines the pupils agreement to the provided statements which is presented in the diagram that follows. 0: Strongly Agree / 3: Strongly Disagree My parents gave me confidence to make my own decisions about orientation and career My teachers gave me confidence to make my own decisions about orientation and career My friends will be studying maths My teachers want me to do it My parents want me to do it I want to do it I will need it for my future career I enjoy challenges mathematics has lots of interesting questions I can show people how clever I am by being good at mathematics Boys Girls I like getting better results than others in maths I dislike the routineness of maths too boring I like the certainty of mathematics, knowing where you are, and when you have learned things I did well in recent mathematics examinations I am interested in mathematics I am good at mathematics I enjoy mathematics as a subject 0 0,5 1 1,5 2 2,5 3 Experiences of mathematics Enjoyment of mathematics and interest in this subject are very important factors for the decision making of the participating pupils, especially for boys. Although both genders strongly agree with the statements I enjoy mathematics as a subject and I am interested in mathematics, a mild difference can be seen on the level of agreement. Boys and girls agree almost equally on the statement regarding enjoyment of the subject while there is a difference on the interest statement boys exhibit a stronger agreement than girls do. 12
15 PREMA Work Package 4 Empirical Research Results 13 This difference in perception is much more evident on the statement regarding the enjoyment of challenges. This is a strong influential factor for the boys but a moderate one for the girls. If the scales of importance and agreement are compared it can be observed that the boys are more consistent on their responses than are the girls which report a stronger agreement with the statement than importance. The certainty issue seems to have a moderate role in pupils decision making to choose mathematics oriented studies/careers. The responses of both genders almost coincide on the importance scale but present a difference on the agreement one. Similarly, the routineness of mathematics is a factor on which both genders equally disagree as being is too boring, but show a difference on the importance scale girls consider it more important than boys. No gender difference can be seen on the statement I like getting better results than others in maths which is a factor of mild importance. Examination success in mathematics and self perception of being good at mathematics From the responses gathered being good in mathematics is a very important factor for both genders. It appears that on the importance scale the pupils self perception has a greater impact in their decision than the exam results. It seems that this factor is of almost equal importance for boys and girls. If one regards these two factors from the agreement point of view then it can be seen that both gender perceive the examination success factor as more influential than their ability. The need for mathematics in a possible future career The data suggest that this is the most important factor influencing pupils choices of orientation and careers and a difference between girls and boys is observed. Boys agree strongly to this statement and consider it very important. The role of peers interest in the study of maths The choices made by the friends of the participating to the study pupils do not seem to influence the decisions regarding orientation or career to be followed. Both genders regard peer influence as a not important factor and there is stronger disagreement in girls than in boys. This difference however is not significant. The influence of parents and teachers on decision making 13
16 PREMA Work Package 4 Empirical Research Results 14 Parental and teachers support emerged as important factors for pupils choices concerning the orientation followed and the envisioned careers. These seem to be more important for girls than for boys. Also their parents confidence seems to be of more importance than that of teachers for both genders. Parental and teachers wishes seem to be a factor of rather minor importance for both genders, especially compared to the weight pupils give to their confidence. While not statistically significant girls feel that their parents wishes is less important to them than it is for boys. The later would be rather surprising if the subject under discussion was different from mathematics but one can say that since girls are not pressed to follow mathematics and math related careers they feel more free to make their own choice. It can be said that both genders feel that the decision of career choices is made by them especially if one sees their responses to the statement I want to do it. In conclusion, it seems that there is an agreement between the genders on the importance of the investigated factors but a difference can be observed regarding the impact these factors has in boys and girls decision making. The need for mathematics in a future career is the most important factor for boys while for girls is the parental support. Enjoyment of mathematics and interest in this subject are very important factors, having a greater impact for boys. Self perception is another very important factor in decision making for both genders having greater impact than exam results. For this it is of particular interest the finding that boys seem to be more selfassured than girls. Teachers support is another influential factor, having greater importance for girls than for boys. Peer influence is the less important factor for these pupils decisions. The above findings do not deviate much with the responses obtained for the qualitative part of the research. These are presented in the Section Qualitative study that follows. Qualitative study This study concerns the views of 40 pupils (16 boys and 24 girls) among the 111 that answered PREMA s quantitative questionnaires. The selection criteria set for choosing pupils from each school 14
17 PREMA Work Package 4 Empirical Research Results 15 were: ranking and orientation. Specifically, among the math high achievers the 1 st and 2 nd girl as well as the 1 st boy from each orientation would be asked to participate in the research. This way 6 students would be selected from each school with the following exceptions:  no math high achieving boys attend the theoretical orientation then the 2 top ranking boys from the technological would be selected  in case 2 pupils had the same rank, then the sample would be enlarged. It was not possible to follow the original design of the PREMA research that called for interviews with the pupils, since due to time constraints from their part this process had to take place during school hours. After discussing with the public school masters it became apparent that there would be a disturbance in the classroom operation if pupils were asked for individual interviews and the solution found was to allocate a teaching hour for administering the PREMA qualitative questionnaire and whenever possible the next teaching hour for discussion with the those pupils. In the case of the private school the mathematics teacher asked the pupils to complete the questionnaire at their own time and bring them back to school. The PREMA semistructure interview protocol was adopted and localized to fit to the needs of the Greek educational system and the modified research design (the instrument used and its translation are appended to this report as Annex B). As was the case with the quantitative questionnaires, arrangements were made with the public school masters and an IACM researcher, along with the Supervisor of Mathematics Education of the Prefecture of Heraklion, after a short introduction to the aims of the PREMA project, asked the selected pupils to complete the questionnaire clarifying that this was not obligatory. It has to be mentioned that all pupils that came to the meeting completed the questionnaire. Very few from those originally selected did not participate and this was because they were absent the day of the meeting. Discussion with the pupils took place in three out of the six public schools; again the time variable was a limiting factor. This process took place in the period 20 th of November to 8 th of December Presented below are the main results of the qualitative research and related quotes of pupils responses. The first cluster of their responses has to do with their personal trajectories. From the 40 participants 12 followed the theoretical orientation 10 girls and only 2 boys, and 28 the technological 14 girls and 14 boys. As it is expected the vast majority of them choose the orientation that fits their subject matter preferences and leads to university programmes of study they would like to pursue. The vast majority 15
18 PREMA Work Package 4 Empirical Research Results 16 of the pupils made active choices; it was just one that went along with what was expected and seven reported that their active choice was in line with what was expected by the environment. Moreover they consider their choice to be a rather easy one. Reservations were expressed by a few girls, following the theoretical orientation, that find mathematics an interesting and enjoyable subject. But it seems a minority of the pupils felt threaten by mathematics since they believe that no matter how well one is prepared one can always face tricky problems in the exams and thus fail in entering into the department of his/her choice. In Greece you can enter the primary education department from all orientations so some pupils decided to follow the theoretical one, feeling that this way they would secure their efforts. Very few pupils believe that the gender makes a difference in choosing. Those, that can detect these, report: girls prefer theoretical subject since there is a difference in the way boys and girls are thinking; a big percentage of girls are afraid of math so they choose the theoretical orientation; the majority of the boys is not good at learning by heart so they cannot follow the theoretical orientation. The majority of the pupils realized that they were good at mathematics at the age of 1013, a small percentage at and 5 of them even before being 8 years old (one replying: 4 years old). The main contributing factors were: parents and teachers support and reassurance, ease of working in maths, attainment (especially high marks), comparison with other pupils, enjoyable subject and understanding exercises. Almost all pupils feel supported by their teachers and parents confidence to make their own decisions about orientation and career to be followed. It is just one girl that thinks the opposite and four more pupils (two boys, two girls) that feel their parents confidence but not their teachers. Regarding long term goals a job, relative to their studies with decent salary seems to be the main objective. Few reply that they would like to enjoy and be fulfilled by their job. Very few are considering graduate studies at this stage. Approximately 50% of the pupils are having a career plan in mind. They relate their career with job security, respectable earning, social acceptance, comfortable life. From the 40 pupils, two girls reply that in 10 years from now they would like to have jobs and family. In contrast, boys do not refer to the family issue except one that sees himself without a family. 16
19 PREMA Work Package 4 Empirical Research Results 17 From the responses the pupils gave regarding their personal trajectories no real evidence can be found regarding gender differences although there seems to appear a greater reservation on the part of the girls regarding their choices. Also from the numbers of the pupils following the theoretical orientation is evident that very few boys that are high math achievers do consider following this orientation. A response from a female pupil, that wasn t until she reached the age of 16 that became aware of her ability to respond well to the requirements so as to be considered as a math high achiever, although not representative is felt that should be presented at this point. Specifically, she states: I followed the theoretical orientation. I did what was expected. In general ever since I was in primary and secondary school, teachers and my parents discouraged me regarding math. When I went to lyceum I began to perform better because I was lucky to have math teachers that motivated me to study more and were interested in my progress. I had reservations following theoretical subjects because suddenly I found out that math was not something impossible as I though before. The Classroom behaviour of pupils and how these perceive their teachers behavior is of most importance for the PREMA study since it reveals some evidences of different perceptions among the genders, especially when their responses are correlated with the propositions part of the questionnaire. All pupils find activities in mathematics interesting and almost all of them enjoyable it was just three girls (two following the theoretical orientation) that disagree. Regarding the roles that emerge in the mathematics classroom it seems that these are independent of gender, only four pupils have different opinion, and the same holds in the case of teachers treatment. There are a few pupils (five) who think that the math teachers treat girls in a more gentle way, are less demanding and they do take into account the gender of pupils but without making discriminations i.e. they will explain differently a question to a boy than to a girl. It has to be noted that the above data, representing pupils responses to the questionnaires, contradict opinions expressed during the discussion sessions where gender differences regarding the roles very more present. Also their responses in this part of the questionnaire are not always in line with other parts of the instrument especially the propositions one. On the issue of successful math teachers the vast majority of the pupils focus on their classroom practices and very few mention that teachers should have a sound mathematics knowledge, interest in the subject and to follow the scientific developments. Successful teachers find ways to be 17
20 PREMA Work Package 4 Empirical Research Results 18 understandable, make the lesson enjoyable and interesting, try to engage as many pupils as possible to the classroom activities, reply to pupils questions, relate theory with exercises and work with a range of exercise/problems that cover different levels of difficulty and complexity. They are patient with the students, communicate and cooperate with them, help and encourage all pupils leading them to enjoy maths. Unsuccessful math teachers pay attention basically to theory and do not relate it with exercises/problems in an understandable way, usually presenting a few, uneven range very easy or very demanding, of problems. Their lesson is boring since they lecture a lot, do not engage pupils in classroom activities, do not answer pupils questions, are not patient, are very strict and use test and grades as punishment. As a result the majority of the class feels left aside or intimidated. Some pupils are of the view that these teachers do not like their job and are interested just for getting their salary. The majority of the pupils believe that there is no difference between male and female math teachers. Those that see differences (25%) mention that females are more friendly, easier to contact, more patient, try to make the lesson understandable by the average pupil, try to simplify the lesson in contrast to the males that are more scientific oriented. As a pupil said: female teachers try methodologically to teach you how to work on an exercise while males want to teach you how to act upon reading an exercise that is to structure it and conceptualize it. Perhaps some indication for gender stereotypes can be found in the above pupils responses. As far as successful math pupils are concerned continuous and stable work so that no gaps are created in their knowledge seems to be their basic concern. In more words successful pupils are the ones that attend, participate, pose questions, clarify notions, work with many and different types of exercises/problems, want to know more and have a solid base on basic mathematical notions. In this way pupils understand mathematics and get to be interested in them. Some believe that successful math pupils are intelligent, have great selfconfidence, think in a more thorough a way and poses critical skills. Yet working consciously on the subject was the most common response. As a pupil states: they think and study. That is enough. Unsuccessful math pupils are the ones that are indifferent for this subject and do not participate in classroom activities. These pupils usually do not attend, do not study and work on exercises, do not ask questions even when not understand is reached and try to learn math by heart. In this way studying 18
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