Monday, 21 January 2008

Boys are from Mars, Girls are from Venus???

There is an interesting report in this week's TES. Teachers are five times more likely to tell boys off than girls, although girls are just as badly behaved. They are also much more likely to call on boys to answer questions in class.

Jeremy Swinson, of Liverpool John Moores University, observed behaviour in classes at two primary schools. He also recorded different teachers' response to this behaviour and the extent to which they upbraided and punished their pupils.

He found that boys and girls were equally likely to misbehave in class. "There was no difference at all in the work ethic or the attention span of the two groups. That goes against the common belief that boys are more easily distracted," he said.

Teachers tended to praise boys and girls equally. But Dr Swinson found that criticism was not so evenly distributed. Instead, teachers chastised boys for their behaviour five times more often than girls, despite their identical levels of misbehaviour.

Dr Swinson attributes this to girls' more subtle rule-breaking. "Boys tend to shout across the classroom, but girls are more likely to read a magazine under their desk or pass notes. They may not learn a lot, but they're not stopping the lesson. So teachers are more likely to see boys as potential troublemakers because boys are more likely to disrupt the whole class," he explained.

He belives this default assumption that boys' behaviour is worse is the reason teachers call on boys to answer questions more often. Some asked questions directly to specific boys. Others would direct a question to the entire class and then select a boy to answer. He said, "Teachers are trying to engage boys more. They are so relieved that little Johnny has has hand up and isn't shouting that they want to choose him."

There is more information about this report here.

Anyone got any thoughts about this interesting research?

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