This study will critically evaluate the educational experiences and attitudes of high achieving pupils at the end of the primary phase in Northern Ireland. The majority of educational research focuses on underachievement, particularly during the secondary phase. There has also been a focus on gender and achievement, with the theory that boys underachieve and girls overachieve. The study will seek to dispel myths surrounding gender and achievement, due to the fact that there are evidently male and female high-achievers.
The researcher will adopt a mixed-methods approach, conducting the study within three research strands. Strand one will involve a desk-based analysis of outcome data by gender at the end of the primary phase. This will seek to establish performance patterns between girls and boys from a variety of schools and socio-economic areas. Strand two will involve the use of an online questionnaire to seek the views of primary school teachers. The third strand will consist of case study visits to approximately ten schools to conduct semi-structured interviews with primary school teachers and hold focus groups with boys and girls at the end of the primary phase.
The aim of this research is to identify, through investigation with teachers and pupils, the characteristics of learning, teaching and assessment at the end of the primary phase that may contribute to differences in performance between high achievers and factors that might affect boys’ and girls’ achievements more generally.