Gender disadvantage?

I think it is pretty safe to say in the majority of my classrooms, girls have behaved more responsibly than boys have. They have completed more work and read more books. I have assumed these attributes would make them successful learners and participants in further learning experiences and have wondered how to assist the boys in my classroom. Clearly the problem was with adapting my teaching to suit the learning styles of the boys.

Kathy Sandford challenges this assumption and in her study”Gendered literacy experiences:  The effects of expectation and opportunity for boys’ and girls’ learning”, looked at the opportunities and expectations of boys and girls learning and literacy experiences. The study which was reported in the December 2005-January 2006 issue of Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, found boys were engaged in the world differently and used alternative literacies more extensively. The skills they were developing outside of the classroom were ones which were likely to provide opportunities for employment in the future. The girls were generally more likely to be engaged in traditional literacies – book reading and journal writing both in and out of school. Their out of school activities were less likely to provide opportunities for employment in the future. Ms. Sandford questioned the legitimacy then of the claims that schooling will be advancing girls rather than boys by any significant measure given the impact of the gender expectations of the community and school surrounding the boys and girls. She challenged teachers to examine the gender assumptions and expectations within the opportunities provided to students and in the responses students give to the opportunities.

Interesting study – I wonder how it helps me in my hear and now. It leaves me with a number of questions – do I continue to look at drawing boys into the traditional activities of school, do I strive to provide activities which mimic more closely the emerging literacies of the information world, do the traditional definitions and measures of literacy still count, if the traditional measures are entrenched do I strive to work in parallel ways, in counter-cultural ways?

Students still need to read. Students who read more become better readers. Do students who read more become better thinkers? I was reading Stephen Downes today. He pointed to an older article of his in which he talks about the things we really need to learn. Do these things we really need to learn align with the things I’m doing to teach reading? Will I begin to teach what really needs to be learned while teaching traditional literacy if I teach differently? Am I really able to teach differently than I have been taught?

So many questions, so little time.


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Filed under boys, curriculum, education, literacy

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