Key Findings of studies
Key Finding of Studies

Most of the studies in low achievers are mainly targeted at school level, but the basic causes and solutions are similar even in the medical teaching. Hence I am quoting few important studies here:

In a study by Julie Willson (Paper presented at the AARE Conference – Melbourne, Australia29th November – 2nd December 1999), some important conclusions are:


From extensive observations of the nature and frequency of informants’ classroom interactions, it was found that:

  • The high achieving informants attempted a greater number of student-initiated interactions than the low achieving informants,
  • When the teacher called randomly on students in the classroom to interact, the inequity between the two achievement levels balanced out with the low achievers being slightly advantaged,
  • The teacher was not discouraged by the lack of attempted interactions initiated by low achievers (eg: less hands being up). He called on low achievers anyway and encouraged them to become involved,
  • Even when encouraged by the teacher, the low achieving informants were still reluctant to interact,
  • High achievers put up their hand to initiate interactions and these interactions were predominantly for the purpose of providing an answer to a question and
  • One of the low achievers used numerous methods of initiating interactions, these consisted of a combination of verbal and non-verbal strategies.

            With the above behaviours evident in the nature and frequency of high and low achievers’ interaction patterns, the other component of the study was to identify factors that influenced the willingness of high and low achievers to initiate classroom interactions. The following factors were found to be significant in influencing the interaction patterns of the high achieving informants:

  • Being uncertain of the answer,
  • Just not wanting to be involved and
  • Not wanting to be the only person in the class initiating an interaction. 
  • The low achieving informants cited different factors as influencing their willingness to interact in the classroom. Not surprising, their list of factors was longer and they clearly related to not just experiences in this current classroom, but were factors developed from previous experiences and years of schooling:
  • Getting teased by other students,
  • Feeling embarrassed,
  • Concerned about being wrong,
  • Lack of enjoyment and knowledge in a particular subject area(s),
  • Personal attitudes towards learning and
  • Personal attitudes towards socialising/forming relationships with other students.

What these findings did reveal was that no one factor identified by the high or low achieving informants was responsible for influencing their interaction levels, instead it was a combination of factors, many of which had been developed over a number of years and from different classroom experiences.

An important conclusion that can be supported by the above findings is that low achievers’ reluctance to interact in the classroom can not be blamed largely on their current teacher’s attitudes or behaviours, or even on the treatment they received from peers in their class.

A report by Robert Cassen and Geeta Kingdon in UK on low educational achievers highlights following points:n Nearly half of all low achievers are White British males. White British students on average – boys and girls – are more likely than other ethnic groups to persist in low achievement. If they start in the lowest categories of achievement in primary school, they are more likely than other ethnic groups to remain there at the end of secondary school.

n Boys outnumber girls as low achievers by three to two. But the gender gap is

larger for some ethnic groups – Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Black African – among those not achieving any passes above D. Eligibility for free school meals,

the main measure of disadvantage in our data, does not affect boys and girls

differently, other things being equal.

n Chinese and Indian pupils, as is well known, are the most successful in avoiding low achievement; Afro-Caribbean pupils are the least successful on average, though their results have been improving, and when compared with White British pupils of similar economic backgrounds, they do no worse.

n Eligibility for free school meals is strongly associated with low achievement, but significantly more so for White British pupils than for other ethnic groups. Other indicators of disadvantage, such as the neighbourhood unemployment rate, the percentage of single-parent households and the proportion of parents with low educational qualifications, all measured in the immediate area round the student’s home, are also statistically associated with low achievement.

n Children with special educational needs understandably comprise a considerable proportion of low achievers; but studies other than our own show that more could be done to assist them through their schooling; the same is true of looked-after children.

n Poor reading and writing scores at primary school are strongly and significantly associated with later low achievement, but not speaking English at home is only a short-lived handicap for most students. African and Asian children commonly recover from it by secondary school.

n Schools do make a difference to outcomes. While students’ social and economic circumstances are the most important factors explaining their educational results, we find that about 14 per cent of the incidence of low achievement is attributable to school quality.

n Good schools – those that are particularly effective in helping students to avoid low achievement – are not uniformly distributed across local authorities; they are concentrated in some local authorities more than others. There is considerable variability in school quality between local authorities.

n We are only able to account for a share of what it is about schools that makes for reductions in low achievement; the rest is due to things we are unable to measure in our data. These could be factors such as school ethos and leadership, or the effectiveness of teaching. But expenditure on students and, to a lesser extent, the number of teachers per pupil do play a positive part. Resources matter particularly for low-achieving students. We also find some government programmes, such as Excellence in Cities and specialist schools, have helped to reduce low achievement.