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Example Answer for Q5 Paper 1 (2019) AQA A Level Sociology


Last updated 17 Jan 2020

This is an example answer for Q5 Paper 1 (2019) AQA A Level Sociology. Refer to the AQA website for details of the question.

A written questionnaire is a set of questions that can either be open or closed depending on the type of data that is required, which is given to respondents to complete in writing, rather than being asked questions verbally. An advantage of this is that it provides respondents with the opportunity to think about their responses and gives them plenty of time to respond. This may increase the validity of their answers, something that interpretivists would prefer, especially if it uses open questions.

In investigating the role of parents in their child's achievement in schools, it is important to consider the differences between parenting styles by social class. Middle-class parents are more likely to take an interest in their child’s achievement at school and be involved in their schoolwork at home which means that they would be more likely to respond to the questionnaire and return it. On the other hand, working-class parents may see little value in the questionnaire, either because they have developed anti-school attitudes (Item C) or work long shifts and are unable to help their children with homework and therefore impact very little on their child’s achievement. Consequently, as Item C states, ‘questionnaires may not be returned’. This would impact on the response rates and may also skew the data. With middle-class parents being more likely to complete this than working-class parents, the researcher may not achieve a representative sample, thus harming the validity of their research.

Another factor to consider when using written questionnaires on parental input into children’s achievement is language and literacy. For working-class parents, completing the questionnaire may prove problematic as they may not understand the questions if they are too complex or if they do not understand some of the educational terminology associated with their child’s achievement, for example Progress 8 Scores. On the other hand, middle-class parents, often with a greater investment in their child’s education and more educational capital to understand the terminology, are more likely to understand the questions being asked and have greater literacy skills to put this is writing. Middle-class parents are also more likely to write in an elaborated code to try and impress the researcher with their own educational knowledge and demonstrate that they are passing this onto their children.

Furthermore, working-class parents may be reluctant to discuss with a researcher the time that they invest in their child’s education due to feeling ashamed that they are unable to do so, due to work or a lack of knowledge. This could be an advantage of using a written questionnaire for some working-class parents as they may be more likely to write down their experiences and motivations than if they were face-to-face with a researcher. Using written questionnaires would reduce the interviewer effect present in other methods such as interviewer-present questionnaires. Furthermore, working-class parents may have less contact with teachers (Item C) due to feeling intimidated by authority figures, particularly if their own educational experiences were negative, and may see the researcher as a symbol of the education system. Therefore, they would be more comfortable in completing the questionnaire in writing, especially if it was anonymous and used open questions, so they could expand fully on how they support their children in education. Middle-class parents may also prefer the ability to answer open questions in writing as it would allow them to write in detail about the broader range of activities and support they provide for their children, without the limitations, or imposition problem of more closed questionnaires.

However, the broad range of experiences that both middle-class and working-class parents may discuss in a written questionnaire would be very time-consuming to quantify and therefore lead to a more limited sample. However this broad range of parental support detailed in these written documents would increase the validity of the research and could formulate further research into how parental support can influence a child’s achievement, particularly if combined with another method such as statistics in the form of student’s results to give it greater reliability as well.

In conclusion it can be argued that for a potentially sensitive topic such as parental support for their children, written questionnaires, if administered anonymously and allowing free expression through open questions, can provide a lot of in-depth data into the material and cultural backgrounds of children and achieve an insight, or verstehen into the differences between parental support and a child’s achievement.

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