In recent years there has been much research into gender learning
issues and the apparent learning disparity between boys and girls.
Such research has included investigations into boys' underachievement
in literacy and girls' underachievement in mathematics. The aim of
such research is to recognise key reasons why such trends are
occurring and perhaps more importantly, to address these within the
Since the introduction of the National Curriculum, national testing
and assessment has provided a comprehensive account of attainment at
all key stages, especially in the key areas of numeracy, literacy and
science. However, such results should not be used exclusively when
discussing gender learning difference. It is also important to
consider the role of gender stereotyping, attitude and classroom
behaviour, and consider how these affect the learning process.
In this essay I will discuss the key issues and the reasons behind
this underachievement, the ways these can be addressed at school level
and the impact these have within the classroom.
Boys and Literacy
It is a common belief that historically girls perform better in
English than boys. Past and present research support this theory as
the table below illustrates.
In the 1998 OfSTED (Office for Standards in Education) Report Recent
Research on Gender and Educational Performance the figures showed that
at Key Stage 1 girls were already outperforming boys in reading with
83% of girls at the expected level and only 73% of boys (OfSTED,
1998). More recent research indicates that this trend still holds true
in Key Stage 2, the OfSTED Report The National Literacy and Numeracy
Strategies and the Primary Curriculum states that the gender gap in
English "is one of the most worrying aspects of the results." (2003:
P8). The chart below illustrates their findings.
Percentage of pupils achieving Level and above in
English tests at Key Stage 2: boys and girls
The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CPLE) has extensively
studied gender differences in learning. One such area of their
research is the Gender and Literacy project investigating 4
Londonschools and their findings are now being used to tackle the
underachievement of boys in literacy education.
Social stereotyping is believed to play a major part in the child's
learning (Head, 1999), and such role reinforcement will affect that
child's attitude and motivation towards classroom education. It is
normal for young children to spontaneously play in single sex groups
and this can be considered as an early introduction into the single
sex peer groups that will dominate in later life. Such group play may
be simply due to a common, shared interest, but the need to conform to
group dynamics and the need for group acceptance may reinforce
stereotyping. Within the school environment boys tend to adopt an
"anti swot culture" (Bradford, 1996:P1), Head states that "the...