The PISA Girls and Ticking the Boxes. An Examination of Students’ Perspectives on PISA Testing


  • Gerry Mac Ruairc University College Dublin

Palabras clave:

PISA, working-class girls, achieving, educational disadvantage, model of assessment


The paper moves from the macro-level analysis to the students’ perspective on PISA testing. While
the high level of correlation between educational attainment and the socio-economic background
of the students is empirically well established, the author wants to analyse in his study how
individual socio-economically disadvantaged students react to tests and engage in the process of
testing. For this, it is important to consider the perspectives of the students themselves. By
examining the views of students on PISA testing in one case study the author provides an insight
into how the PISA assessment (2009) was experienced by a group of working-class girls in a
disadvantaged inner city school in a large urban area in the Republic of Ireland. The thematic
analysis of the interviews and the focus groups transcripts revealed two themes: for most
students, but especially for those with special educational needs, felt stressed by the content and
item difficulty; on the other hand, children who simply ticked the boxes to complete the test in
time have implications for the validity of some of the responses to test items. It concludes with
the need for a more proactive approach to student support and a more nuanced model of
assessment in future PISA tests to take account of social class difference.