Last week’s 15 minute forum was led by AHT John Lamb. John started the session by discussing the news report form earlier that day, stating that girls born this year are 75% more likely to go to university than boys (read the TES article here). He then shared the images above, that had been taken directly from a very well-known parenting website. This suggests that in society and so therefore schools, we still have an issue with gender stereotyping.
All of us have probably heard the statements above at some point in our career. The worrying thing is that these statements have all been taken from educational books and articles that talk about how to teach boys/girls. They are of course all very untrue stereotypes. The images above the table, come from clipart searches for boys/ girls. So, we have a problem – boys and girls are being subjected to these stereotypes from birth.
Exploration of the above ‘Psychological Cycle of Need’ (awaiting source), shows the same basic needs for boys and girls – we all need to be our own person, to fit in and also to stand out. The issue is that society has taught boys and girls to seek it in a different way, based on the stereotypes discussed earlier. When the same researchers surveyed and observed boys and girls in the classroom, they noticed the following about both genders:
- They both wanted structure in their lessons.
- They both feared punitive measures.
- They can both be emotionally fragile.
- They both want status and autonomy.
So, these perceived gender differences based on established stereotypes need to be challenged in school – in order to allow all students to be themselves and flourish. What can we do?
- Establish a non-negotiable and secure classroom with rights and responsibilities.
- Ensure there is a consequence for poor behaviour.
- Make sure that we direct the learning, so that it is structured and purposeful.
- Share the power between the genders in the classroom – don’t allow one or the othe other to dominate.
- Avoid a vicious circle of re-enforcing gender stereotypes.
In terms of the last bullet point, evidence suggests that teachers who are most effective at challenging gender stereotypes do the following – equally to boys and girls:
- Give feedback that encourages growth and self-improvement.
- Give feedback that encourages mastery.
- Give feedback that challenges students to think hard.
- Gives feedback that is descriptive and supportive.
- Less generic praise and more encouragement e.g. ‘It’s great that you’ve tried really hard on this problem, that’s why you’re being successful’.
- Don’t be fooled by loud boys.
- Don’t be fooled by quiet girls.
So feedback matters – but it needs to be distributed equally amongst boys and girls in the classroom, in order to not reinforce gender stereotypes.
“Why are confident little girls called bossy and confident little boys called leaders, when they exhibit the same characteristics?”
If boys and girls are left to themselves, they will reinforce stereotypes – simply because of the pressure placed upon them by society. As educators, we need to address this by taking them out of these ‘stereotype comfort zones’. How? By challenging our own default settings in terms of how we interact with boys and girls. So….
- Appreciate and admire girls for their wit, confidence, energy, courage, risk-taking and sporting prowess.
- Appreciate and admire boys for their thoughtfulness, their empathy, conscientiousness, sensitivity and their ability to listen.