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COM10006 Week 5

Theory / Ethnicity & Edu

Lucy Nicholas

on 4 March 2014

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Transcript of COM10006 Week 5

Week 5: Using Theory in your work / Education and Ethnicity
Definition of Theory
‘a systematic way of organising and explaining observations, which includes a set of propositions, or statements, about the relationships among various phenomena.’ (Burton, Westen & Kowalski 2012, p.44).
theory as “is a statement of how and why specific facts are related” (Macionis & Plummer 2012: 34).
To explain the
behind a

e.g. correlation between SES or ethnicity and participation at university in Australia

inferences from the observation of correlations.

To infer is to reach a conclusion based on reasoning and logic

in academia these inferences must be investigated and defended with evidence
Phenomenon / correlation:

‘the educational achievement of Samoan children...in diasporic communities...is generally low’ (Singh 2001, p.318)
Can Basil Bernstein’s ‘theories on the arbitrary selection, organisation and distribution of school knowledge’ (Singh 2001, p.318) explain why certain social classes do better than others?
Article: 'Speaking about Cultural Difference and School Disadvantage. An Interview Study of "Samoan" Paraprofessionals in Designated Secondary Schools in Australia.' (Singh 2001)
Theories can be competing, or co-exist, e.g. theories to explain why so many black boys under-achieve at school in the UK?


Tony Sewell proposes a theory that the
factor of 'anti-school black masculinity' is the
of the underachievment.

Lee Jasper argues that there is a
racism which is actually the underlying
of these cultural factors
Theories re Ethnicity and Educational Inequality
Theory and Empiricism
Start with a hypothesis: 'a tentative belief about the relationship between two or more variables.' (Burton, Westen & Kowalski 2012, p.44). Often this is a theory.

Test it with observation and evidence

Usually empirical research 'controlled, systematic observations in the real world' (Newman 2008, p.529).

'Even when the evidence you find supports your hypothesis, you can only gain support for your theory; it can never be proved' (Findlay 2012, p.26).
What academic researchers do.....
Example 2:
Phenomenon / Correlation



Empirical research

discusses empirical examples in terms of theoretical framework

de Plevitz, L 2007, 'Systemic Racism: the hidden barrier to educational success for Indigenous school students', Australian Journal of Education, Vol. 51, no,4, pp.54-71.

Burton, L, Westen, D, Kowalski, RM 2012, Psychology (3rd edtn), John Wiley and Sons, Milton, Qld.

de Plevitz, L 2007, 'Systemic Racism: the hidden barrier to educational success for Indigenous school students', Australian Journal of Education, Vol. 51, no,4, pp.54-71.

Findlay, B 2012, How to Write Psychology Research Reports and Essays, Pearson, NSW.

Macionis & Plummer 2012, Sociology: A Global Introduction, Prentice Hall.

Newman, D 2008, Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life, Pine Forge Press, London.

Singh, Parlo 2001, 'Speaking about Cultural Difference and School Disadvantage. An Interview study of 'Samoan' Paraprofessionals in Designated Disadvantaged Schools in Australia', British Journal of Sociology Education, vol. 22, no.3, pp.317-337. Available here.
Phenomenon / correlation: 'educational experiences and outcomes for Indigenous school students are poor' (de Plevitz 2007, p. 54)
hypothesis: 'some apparently race-neutral educational policies and practices are based on underlying assumptions that are not in accordance with Indigenous experience or culture, and which therefore disadvantage the Indigenous students' (de Plevitz 2007, p. 54)

(short-hand way of explaining a particular explanation for a phenomenon / correlation):

Systemic Racism

Empirical Evidence and Theory
e.g. Research which produced comparable statistics about the success rates of Indigenous students in

Schools which did not emphasise Indigenous culture
Schools which have different models of schooling which include more Indigenous culture

The author reasons that the greater success rate in the latter is evidence of a correlation b/w extent to which school is inclusive of Indigenous culture and success rate of Indigenous students.

This 'proves' the theory that systemic racism is a cause of poor success
unreflective / commonsense conclusion = 'Indigenous students are just no good at school' (de Plevitz 2007, p. 66)
'While they are apparently being offered the same educational opportunities as other students, Indigenous students may be experiencing the unintentional consequences of' systemic racism (de Plevitz 2007, p.88)
Note the strength of the author's claim, 'may be..', 'there is evidence to suggest that..'
Race / Ethnicity? : A Note on Terminology
Consider your chosen demographic: Does being a member of this demographic influence the choice to participate in university and / or the choice of university and / or choice of course in Australia. What reasons might there be for this?
Essay Question
in essence, a shorthand way to explain relationships / causes for phenomena, e.g. secularization, gravity.

journal article ‘ “University’s not for Me – I’m a Nike Person”: Urban Working-Class Young People’s Negotiations of ‘Style’, Identity and Educational Engagement’


•Explanation of the phenomenon
•Explanation of Bourdieu’s theory of ‘habitus’
•Positions itself as supporting this interpretation (hypothesis)
•Explains the research
•Discussion of the research findings in the framework of this theory.
Example of Application of Theory:
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