Boys, Girls and Achievement
Outline of the session
•
Your experience
•
Putting ‘boys achievement’ into
perspective
•
Disrupting ‘commonsense’: some things
we know don’t work but we still do
•
Orienting practice: what research tells us
can work… in some contexts
•
Going forward
Your experience
What provoked you to pick
this session?
How do you see the issues
of gender and achievement?
What strategies have you
used to address these
issues?
Putting ‘boys achievement’
into perspective
A political and economic perspective
The last 40 years has seen:
- changing patterns of working-class employment
due to the decline of manufacturing industry.
- changing roles of men and women due to the
impact of feminism.
Sharpe, S. (1976, 1994) Just Like A Girl, How girls learn to be women
(London, Penguin)
Willis, P. (1977) Learning to labour: how working class kids get working
class jobs (London, Gower Publishing)
An historical perspective
“There can scarce be a greater Defect in a Gentleman, than not to
express himself well either in Writing or Speaking. But yet, I think,
I may ask my Reader, whether he doth not know a great many,
who live upon their Estate, and so, with the Name, should have
the Qualities of Gentlemen, who cannot so much as tell a Story as
they should; much less speak clearly and persuasively in any
Business. This, I think not to be so much their Fault, as the Fault
of their Education.” (John Locke, 1693)
Girls outperformed boys in the11+ examination.
In the 1970-80s more girls than boys got 5 A-C grades at O-level.
Arnot, M., David, M. & Weiner, G. (1999) Closing the Gender Gap: Postwar
Education and Social Change (Cambridge, Polity Press)
Cohen, M. (1998) "A habit of healthy idleness": boys' underachievement in
historical perspective. In: D. Epstein, J. Elwood, V. Hey and J. Maw (eds)
Failing boys? Issues in gender and underachievement (Buckingham, Open
University Press)
A geographical perspective
For example, England and France share similar
patterns in terms of the differential attainment of
boys and girls, but while in England the boys'
underachievement debate is prominent in policy and
media, in the latter it is non-existent.
Moreau, M.-P. (2011) The Societal Construction of Boys’
Underachievement in Educational Policies: A cross-national comparison,
Journal of Education Policy, 26 (2), 161-180
Putting achievement into perspective
When we talk about boys’ achievement we are talking
about attainment rather than other forms of
achievement – this is a post-league tables focus.
We need a wider notion of achievement: exclusions,
subject choice, aspirations, employment.
Boys results improve year on year and there is no
consistent gender gap in maths and science.
Arnot, M., David, M. & Weiner, G. (1999) Closing the Gender Gap: Postwar
Education and Social Change (Cambridge, Polity Press)
Osler, A. & Vincent, K. (2003) Girls and Exclusion: rethinking the agenda.
(London, RoutledgeFalmer)
The Fawcett Society and the Women’s Budget Group produce regular
reports on the gender pay gap and other gendered economic inequalities
Putting underachievement into
perspective
Underachievement is unclearly defined – is it relative
to some inner potential, to some group reference
point or to some prediction based on prior
attainment?
In the context of the A*-C economy, it can lead to the
rationing of educational resources.
Gillborn, D. & Youdell, D. (2000) Rationing education: policy, practice,
reform, and equity (Buckingham, Open University Press)
Putting boys into perspective
Not all boys are ‘underachieving’ and not all girls are
achieving well.
There are differences between boys and different
ways of ‘doing boy’.
Differences in attainment by ethnicity are larger than
differences between girls and boys and differences
by social class are even larger.
Archer, L., Hollingworth, S. & Mendick, H. (2010) Urban youth and
schooling (Maidenhead, Open University Press)
Francis, B. (2000) Boys and girls and achievement: addressing the
classroom issues (London, RoutledgeFalmer)
But there is an issue
There is a gender gap in literacy attainment in
favour of girls running throughout primary and
secondary schooling.
There is an overall gender gap in those attaining 5
A*-C GCSEs in favour of girls.
There is evidence that the most valorised ways of
‘doing boy’ are anti-school with school work linked to
femininity and effortless achievement as the ideal.
Younger, M. & Warrington, M. with McLellan, R. (2005) Raising
boys’ achievement in secondary schools: issues, dilemmas and
opportunities (Maidenhead, Open University Press)
Disrupting ‘commonsense’
Some Things We Know Don’t
Work But We Still Do
There’s no such thing as boy-friendly
pedagogy, resources and curriculum
Boys don’t prefer non-fiction, the most successful
schools promote a range of resources to all...
“What is clearly evident from our research over the past
decade is that, when asked what makes a good lesson,
there is a broad consensus across the sexes.”
Approaches to teaching oriented to boys are based on
assumptions about the typical boy…
Moss, G. (2007) Literacy and Gender: researching texts, contexts
and readers (Abingdon, Routledge)
Younger, M. & Warrington, M. with McLellan, R. (2005) Raising boys’
achievement in secondary schools: issues, dilemmas and opportunities
(Maidenhead, Open University Press)
In particular…
Competitive activities disengage
many girls and boys
Competitive practices create winners and losers and
lead to defensive strategies by boys (and girls) to
protect their self-image whereby they withdraw from
competition rather than risk failure.
Jackson, C. (2006) Lads and ladettes in school: gender and a fear of
failure (Maidenhead, Open University Press)
Boys and girls don’t have different
learning styles
Different measurement instruments produce
different learning style profiles.
Research shows no consistent differences in
learning styles between boys and girls.
There are further problems with learning styles in
that these are difficult to define and are not fixed for
any student but change in response to experience.
Younger, M. & Warrington, M. with McLellan, R. (2005) Raising boys’
achievement in secondary schools: issues, dilemmas and opportunities
(Maidenhead, Open University Press)
Boys don’t work better with male
teachers
“Our study indicates that simplistic and unsupported
claims about the benefits of gender matching should
have no place in driving either education policy or
practice. The voices of the children in our study are
clear: it is the teacher’s pedagogic and interpersonal
skills that are vital in engaging them as learners,
regardless of their gender.”
Carrington, B., Francis, B., Hutchings, M., Skelton, C., Read, B. & Hall, I.
(2007) Does the gender of the teacher really matter? Seven- to eightyear-olds' accounts of their interactions with the teachers, Educational
Studies, 33(4), 397-413
Girls do well in coursework and
terminal exams
Girls results were on an upward trajectory before the
move to increased coursework in 1988 and
continued after the reduction in GCSE and A level
coursework.
Modern foreign languages results have some of the
largest gender differences. These subjects have
always had some of the least coursework
components.
Elwood, J. (2005) Gender and Achievement: what have exams got to do
with it, Oxford Review of Education Policy, 31 (3), 373-393
Orienting practice
What Research Tells Us Can
Work… In Some Contexts
Mentoring and target-setting
Needs to be based in high but realistic expectations
where students and staff understand the data used to
set targets.
Needs reciprocity: so mentors can advocate for students
and mediate between them and their teachers, and
mentees are offered and can take responsibility.
Needs to happen “in a context where boys (in particular)
can be offered an escape from the needs to conform to
a laddish, macho image”
Younger, M. & Warrington, M. with McLellan, R. (2005) Raising boys’
achievement in secondary schools: issues, dilemmas and opportunities
(Maidenhead, Open University Press)
Single-sex classes
Can make students feel more comfortable in class
and less pressurised to ‘showboat’.
Can make students feel freer to
question/explore/discuss particularly for boys in
English and girls in maths/science.
Needs coherent and vibrant pedagogy for girls and
boys and to not homogenise boys (and girls).
Younger, M. & Warrington, M. with McLellan, R. (2005) Raising boys’
achievement in secondary schools: issues, dilemmas and opportunities
(Maidenhead, Open University Press)
Carolyn Jackson reviews the issues:
http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fass/edres/videos/jackson_singleSex_Classes.htm
A focus on learning and teaching
The key thing is to give students and teachers a
vocabulary for understanding learning so that:
- students can become more aware and autonomous
and feel respected/ valued.
- teachers can become more creative in their teaching,
planning and assessment.
These initiatives need to be embedded across the
school and sustained.
Younger, M. & Warrington, M. with McLellan, R. (2005) Raising boys’
achievement in secondary schools: issues, dilemmas and opportunities
(Maidenhead, Open University Press)
Hall, E. (2004) Researching learning styles, Teaching Thinking, Spring: 28-35
Socio-cultural approaches
Whole-school ethos: schools as learning organisations:
proactivity, pedagogy, support.
Within this, using key leaders and key befrienders can
work.
Generally, it’s important to challenge the patterns of
gender in school, particularly those associating school
work with femininity and idealising effortless
achievement.
Younger, M. & Warrington, M. with McLellan, R. (2005) Raising boys’
achievement in secondary schools: issues, dilemmas and opportunities
(Maidenhead, Open University Press)
Davies, B. (1993) Shards of glass: children reading and writing beyond
gendered identities (Sydney, Allen and Unwin)
Going forward
Did anything surprise you?
Do you want to do anything…
– in your classroom?
-in your subject area?
-at a whole school level?
Heather Mendick: [email protected]
www.genderandeducation.com
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