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Boys, Girls and Achievement. Outline of the session Your experience Putting boys achievement into perspective Disrupting commonsense: some things we know.

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Presentation on theme: "Boys, Girls and Achievement. Outline of the session Your experience Putting boys achievement into perspective Disrupting commonsense: some things we know."— Presentation transcript:

1 Boys, Girls and Achievement

2 Outline of the session Your experience Putting boys achievement into perspective Disrupting commonsense: some things we know dont work but we still do Orienting practice: what research tells us can work… in some contexts Going forward

3 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?

4 Putting boys achievement into perspective

5 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)

6 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 s 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)

7 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),

8 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 Womens Budget Group produce regular reports on the gender pay gap and other gendered economic inequalities

9 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)

10 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)

11 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)

12 Disrupting commonsense Some Things We Know Dont Work But We Still Do

13 Theres no such thing as boy-friendly pedagogy, resources and curriculum Boys dont 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)

14 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)

15 Boys and girls dont 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)

16 Boys dont 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 teachers 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 eight- year-olds' accounts of their interactions with the teachers, Educational Studies, 33(4),

17 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),

18 Orienting practice What Research Tells Us Can Work… In Some Contexts

19 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)

20 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: Sex_Classes.htm

21 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

22 Socio-cultural approaches Whole-school ethos: schools as learning organisations: proactivity, pedagogy, support. Within this, using key leaders and key befrienders can work. Generally, its 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)

23 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:


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