Evaluate the strengths and limitations of using questionnaires to the role of parents in pupils’ achievement

Last Updated on May 14, 2017 by Karl Thompson

An example of a ‘methods in context’ question take from an AQA specimen paper – suggested strategy below…

(05) Read item B, then answer the question below (hooks in bold)

Item B

Investigating the role of parents in pupils’ achievement

 Parents play a vital role in pupils’ achievement. There may be social class differences in parents’ income levels, cultural capital, educational qualifications, attitudes to school and how they socialise their children, for example into using different speech codes. Similarly, ethnic differences among parents, for example in family structure, discipline styles or home language, may affect pupils’ achievement.

Questionnaires may be a good way of investigating the role of parents in pupils’ achievement. Pupils can be asked to distribute them to parents at no cost, giving wide coverage. Parents are accustomed to supplying information to the school on a regular basis and this will help to ensure a good response. However, the questions asked may be very personal and some parents may feel that they are being judged. However, they may be less useful when dealing with sensitive issues

Applying material from Item B and your knowledge of research methods, evaluate the strengths and limitations of using questionnaires to the role of parents in pupils’ achievement (20 marks)

 Section 1 – Deal with the method –

Remember to deal with

  • Theoretical
  • Practical
  • Ethical

And link education in general, or the topic at this stage if you can…

Section 2 – Link the method to the specific topic.

Examples of top mark band statements – these will be quite different from the previous exemplar because the topic under investigation is different, although there will also be some overlap because there are similarities.

  • Questionnaires might be a quite useful method for researching some aspects of the role of parents in pupils’ achievement because they make it easy to compare differences in home background. Some aspects, such as income levels and educational qualifications of the parents are relatively easy to measure, and would be simple to correlate this with the educational achievement of the child.
  • However, other aspects of home life would be more difficult to measure – cultural capital for example is much more complex than income levels, as it appears in many different forms – how could you measure how ‘skilled’ a parent is at choosing a school in a questionnaire, for example?
  • Similarly with speech codes and language differences, if parents have linguistic deprivation, they may not be happy completing a questionnaire designed to measure their poor language skills, they may not even be able to, thus you would get poor representativeness from such parents.
  • Again with socialisation practices, which takes place over many years, questionnaires wouldn’t allow you find out with any depth the many interactions that go into making up the child.
  • A stated strength in the item is that parents are used to giving information to schools, and so would be happy to complete a questionnaire, this may be true of parents who have a good relationship with the school, but less so with those who value education less, or feel that school is biased against them, maybe because they perceive it as ethnocentric.
  • Also, as stated in the item, if you were going to give the questionnaires to students, those students with poor performance in school may not give their parents the questionnaires, possibly because they think it may harm them.
  • A final problem mentioned is that parents may feel they being judged, and the formal nature of the questionnaire wouldn’t help this, again meaning a low response rate is likely from such parents.


You decide! Personally I think it’s not as stupid a choice of method for this topic as compared to some others, as it’s not that sensitive or complex.




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