Dissertation Abstracts

Methods Effects in Mixed Methods Quasi-Experimental Investigation of Gendered Choice of School Subjects in Rwandan Secondary Schools

Author: Nzabonimpa, Jean Providence , njeanprovidence@gmail.com
Department: Sociology and Social Anthropology
University: Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Supervisor: Dr. Heidi Prozesky
Year of completion: 2016
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: methods effects , mixed methods , concurrent and seque , educational choice
Areas of Research: Logic and Methodology , Women in Society , Education


This methodologically focused, two-phase equal-weight convergent mixed methods study was designed to investigate whether results are comparable and complementary between methods strands. It was designed to examine methods effects on study results and using a survey questionnaire on the one hand, and interviews and essays on the other, in Rwandan secondary schools.

Findings suggest that results are similar over time when data from the same tools are considered. Such results suggest that when a particular tool is used it is likely that similar data are gathered and results produced, regardless of whether respondents participated once or twice. Different and mixed results were also produced. Where differences were observed, either a certain questionnaire response provided by a large number of questionnaire respondents would not be mentioned by qualitative-strand participants, or only by a small minority of them. When qualitative-strand participants agreed with or mentioned an issue, the quantitative-strand respondents also did so, but the degree to which they did also varied between the two strands. Without conducting the mixed analysis in an iterative and looping manner, the qualitative data become de-contextualised through quantitising, while the quantitative data are fleshed out with insights only generated through the researcher’s interpretation. It was shown that underlying quantitative and qualitative insights were interwoven in the existing pool of mixed methods data. Such insights led to understanding the explicit and the implicit, the said and the unsaid, in the responses on gendered choice of school subjects, thus greatly enhancing our understanding of the issue under consideration.

Findings from both the quantitative and qualitative strands revealed that schoolchildren prefer mixed-sex to single-sex schools, although the latter have generally been indicated to offer a better learning environment. Girls from single-sex schools were reported to perform better than their counterparts in mixed-sex schools. As evidence further shows, the type of school has more of an effect than gender on self-reported performance in, and choosing of, school subjects. Findings indicate that there are sensitive or complex responses related to gender which are less easily written than said. The voices raised against the patriarchal order in science convey a message of revolt against inequitable gender practices. Findings show, counter-intuitively, that more boys than girls were likely to report positive attitudes towards women in society. The socially constructed gendered behaviours and practices adopted by both male and female social actors negatively affect girls and do not allow them to catch up with boys. Further nuances and insights that were captured indicate that some subjects, such as biology and chemistry, also have a “female face”, while mathematics and physics (to a greater extent) and chemistry (to some extent) were often associated with boys. Girls seem to be passive victims of the patriarchal order. The study also revealed that there were positive and negative predictors of the choice of science subjects, regardless of gender.

This study contributes to the development and understanding of mixed methods research, challenging equal-weight designs for triangulation purposes, and also points out that educational choice of school subject is differentially gender-driven.