Anna Hill

Date of Submission



The study evolved from a professional interest in the difficulties faced by boys in an academically challenging school context. Existing research evidence suggests that there is a link between performance at school and specific pedagogical styles used within the teaching environment. This study builds on this evidence-base with the implementation of an intervention program incorporating aspects of Social Constructivist and Essentialist models of pedagogy. The study was designed to monitor this implementation. Students' academic performance, behaviour, motivation and attitude were explored in the context of this pedagogical intervention using the lens of a two-part research question. The research is informed by a pragmatic understanding of the epistemology of constructivism and the principles associated with the theoretical framework of symbolic interactionism. It is a case study of an intervention program, supported by a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods. The context is a Senior Catholic College catering for the final two years of high school with a student population exceeding 1100. The school is a receiver school for associated junior schools and caters for both males and females. Students remain with the College for 18 months, the duration of their studies in preparation for the New South Wales Higher School Certificate. The researcher is a teacher in the English Department. The interest in boys' education stems from a longstanding association with students from a broad spectrum of academic abilities, particularly in remedial and low-ability classes. A review of literature served to identify three main groups of influence on the education of boys: school context; student social-emotional well-being; and learning theory models. The literature review helped situate the problem of boys' academic experiences of underachievement more firmly within the theoretical perspectives of pedagogy.;Two models were examined more closely: the Essentialist and the Social Constructivist. Data in response to the Research Questions identified that: Positive experiences at school and the subsequent changes in the patterns of behaviour, attitude and motivation were aligned to a number of factors including experiences within an intervention program using information technology and audio-visual stimulus. Other positive factors included the trialing of single-sex groupings in mixed-ability co educational settings. Self-reported negative experiences at school were not confined to gender but aligned to the complexity and demands of the senior school English curriculum; its perceived irrelevance and mismatch with post-school needs. Similarly, the reported discrepancies between student and teacher perception of social-emotional well-being problems among students and a lack of decision-making opportunities may have further contributed to the sense of alienation, stress and frustration. Implications were drawn from the research and the study concludes with recommendations which focus on creating more positive school experiences for academically less capable students. First, it recommends the implementation of aspects of Social Constructivist and Essentialist models of pedagogical structures using information technology and audio-visual stimulus. Second, it recommends the organization of single-sex groupings in mixed-ability co-educational settings to assist in improving academic experiences of low-ability boys in Year 11 English classes - both aspects of the intervention program central to this

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


417 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Faculty of Education