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Shared beliefs about the literacy skills of boys and girls are distinctly gendered and are, in fact, stereotypes. Two that we know well: boys are good at math; girls reading. It is alarming that gender stereotypes have such a profound effect on reading in children and at a young age.
Francesca Muntoni and her colleagues at the University of Hamburg wanted to know whether classmates and students’ own stereotypes in favor of girls in reading affected reading results. She and her colleagues went to class to find out if peers were having an influence. They tested over 1,500 boys and girls when they were in fifth grade and again when they were in sixth grade with an average age of 11.
I asked Dr Muntoni, the lead researcher, to educate me on how gender stereotypes in the classroom setting affected the children his team studied.
Question: Did you find any gender reading stereotypes prevalent in the classroom?
A: We asked students if girls or boys generally read better, enjoyed reading more, and read more. We interpreted the responses as an endorsement of the stereotypes. On average, children tend to agree that reading is for girls.
Question: Have students’ gender stereotypes regarding their reading skills affected their performance?
A: It wasn’t just the gender stereotypes of classmates that were related to students’ motivation in the class to read, how they rated their own reading ability, and their reading performance.
We also found that students’ own gender stereotypes favoring girls in reading had an effect on their reading performance. Interestingly, stereotypical differences between the sexes were observed: boys who thought reading was reserved for girls were less motivated to read, had lower beliefs about their own reading skill, and had less optimal results. in the reading test. Girls felt positive effects of their own gender stereotypes on their beliefs about reading skills.
Overall, however, there were more negative effects for boys than positive effects for girls, which is very alarming.
Question: Can you explain how students’ gender stereotypes influence their academic performance? Were they very different between the boys and girls in your study?
A: We did not directly study these processes in our study. Nonetheless, previous research has suggested different ways in which gender stereotypes can affect students academically.
You can think of it like this: Reading is stereotyped as a female domain. Such stereotypes can affect boys by causing them to devalue their own real reading ability while also being less motivated to read, which in turn impairs their reading performance. In addition, other important people – what we call the important people in children’s lives such as their classmates – can consciously or unconsciously create a climate in which certain behaviors, preferences or talents are seen as uniquely masculine or feminine. The more or less gendered behaviors of the pupils can then be reinforced or penalized by the reactions of their classmates. So, for example, when a boy wants to talk about a book with his friends against a girl, the experience will be different for everyone.
It is important to note that not only gender stereotypes of classmates, but also those of parents or teachers can have effects on students’ academic performance.
Question: What is the most striking thing that you have found?
A: Our study improves our knowledge of the relationship between gender stereotypes of students and their academic performance. We need to be aware that gender stereotypes have a huge impact on students’ beliefs, motivation and achievement in competence, and that these effects hold true for gender stereotypes of students as well as their classmates.
However, the most striking thing we found was the fact that we found not only short-term but also long-term effects on boys’ reading motivation, skill beliefs, and achievement. This means that the effects of stereotypes were still observed after 18 months. This finding suggests that gender stereotypes in the classroom can have profound consequences for boys’ reading development.
Question: Are these stereotypes different from those of parents and many educators?
A: In two other studies, we also asked parents and teachers about their gender stereotypes related to reading. In these studies, we found similar effects: Boys’ poor reading performance was linked to their parents’ negative stereotypes about reading, which were linked to boys’ reading downgrade. In fact, boys tended to feel less proficient at reading and less motivated to engage in a reading task when their parents thought reading was for girls. Additionally, teachers endorsing the gender stereotype also had higher expectations of girls in reading, which, as a self-fulfilling prophecy, was linked to increasing girls ‘reading achievement levels, but was detrimental to girls’ reading achievement levels. boys’ reading success.
Question: Since school results are significantly affected by gender stereotypes, do you have any recommendations to reduce gender stereotypes of reading in class? Are there ways parents can help?
A: Our findings raise the question of what students – teachers and parents alike – can do to challenge gender stereotypes and reduce socially determined gender disparities in reading. Teachers play a particularly important role in creating a classroom environment in which neither girls nor boys are weakened by stereotypes of their classmates. They should attach great importance to the socialization of boys and girls without expecting stereotypical behaviors, instead of reinforcing stereotypes about gender specific skills.
This is also true for parents, as they play an important role in socializing children to gender roles. Encouraging parents to be positive role models regarding gender stereotypes about reading should be the first objective in order to promote boys’ reading success.
In order to improve boys’ reading engagement in school, students, parents and teachers need to understand that their stereotypical attitudes and behaviors can have consequences. It is important that students monitor their gender stereotypes in order to counteract their effects on the performance of classmates in order to create a gender-equitable learning environment.
Related: How to Get Your Kids to Read More: Proven Ways to Instill the Joy of Reading in Your Reluctant Toddler or Teen.
Copyright @ 2020 by Susan Newman