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Tackling Gender Underachievement in Literacy and Numeracy.

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Helen Reardon Tackling Gender Underachievement in Literacy and Numeracy January 2004 Introduction 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 classroom. 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. (www.dfes.gov.co.uk) 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). ...read more.


and to create a positive literacy image rather than forcing boys to read and write (often perceived as a chore or punishment). Much concern has been expressed over boys lack of attainment and motivation in writing, the CPLA report Boys and Writing (2002) highlight the issue of boys that can read and write but don't. Commonly boys are quite articulate in vocal discussions but lack confidence in their written work and need constant reassurance that they are performing at the correct level. School strategies may include positive feedback, working in groups (similar to reading groups) and examine how words and images can produce creative writing. Schools may also find it useful for boys (in particular) to investigate ways in which writing contributes to modern media such as music, television, computers and the internet, areas often considered masculine and acceptable by boys and of course linking with the ICT curriculum. St Margaret's Church of England Junior School is addressing the poor performance of boys in Literacy. This year sets two and three have been split into single sex classes once a week. This enables the teacher to focus on the issues previously discussed and teach boys in a way that matches their kinaesthetic learning style and it is hoped that this different approach will raise the standard of boys writing at no cost to the girls. ...read more.


An understanding of teaching styles, classroom management, group workshops and sanctions and rewards will aid the teacher and pupils. Educators should promote academic work as positive and reinforce that academic achievement is 'fashionable' rather than 'swotty'. Traditional gender barriers within the curriculum such as PE, should be broken down to promote equality. Role modelling can be used to promote such equality. Conclusion In conclusion it can be seen that although boys are still underachieving in literacy, huge steps have been taken in addressing this with practical advice being made available to those working in the education environment. Traditionally research has focussed on girls' achievement and creating a suitable learning environment. However, the same is now true for boys, if they are to develop and meet their full potential then a similar environment and understanding of learning needs is required. It is important that the continual research and focus on the justifiable concerns about boys and literacy do not over shadow the education of girls. As mentioned earlier if subject are becoming less stereotyped, it is mainly to the benefit of girls who are prepared to tackle 'masculine' subjects, whilst the majority of boys are still avoiding feminine subjects. This is very positive and will hopefully lead to further narrowing of gender gap in mathematics but this area should not be ignored or overlooked and as long as there is a pattern of gender underachievement in mathematics the continuation of research and awareness is just as vital as that of boys in literacy. ...read more.

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