New study reveals impact of school environment on gender-based reading scores
- A large proportion of highly-qualified teachers benefits both boy and girls equally, and girls are more affected by the socio-economic composition of a school than boys are, according to the results of an international study released Friday by researchers from the Netherlands.
- The researchers investigated whether schools affect girls’ and boys’ reading performance differently by using advanced, multilevel analyses of 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) data for 15-year-old students, regardless of grade level, as this differed from county to country.
- The research was conducted in part because of the current focus in educational research on the reasons girls generally outperform boys on almost every indicator of educational achievement. Contrary to the authors’ expectations, they discovered that “girls gained more than boys from a school’s advantaged socioeconomic composition” and that “these gendered effects of school resources were not explained by differences in school learning climate.” They also found that a school’s use of well-rounded reading assessment methods did not seem to affect the reading performance of girls and boys differently.
There is a great deal to unpack in this study, especially as some of the conclusions drawn in the study reflect similar conclusions from past research, while other results were unexpected. The broad international nature of this study had some advantage of allowing the results to focus more on gender results rather than cultural influences unique to each nation. However, the results also have to be weighed in terms of how each country defines such terms as “well-qualified” teachers and “well-rounded” assessments.
For instance, this study focuses on teacher effects based on whether teachers had a college degree or not. In the U.S., teachers rarely are allowed to teach without a college degree. However, the ultimate value of high school, college or university degree differs in each country as well because of differences in educational structure. This study recommends future studies on the effects of teachers’ pedagogical skills in the hopes that such a study would “shed light on the notion that more highly qualified teachers contribute more to boys’ learning, in part because they are better able to maintain an orderly and stimulating classroom environment, to which boys are more susceptible.”
Another interesting aspect of this study was the relationship between gender and school environment. The researchers in this study concluded that girls were more affected than boys by the socio-economic factors of a school. On the other hand, boys seem to be positively affected by the percentage of girls present at a school. This study indicated that boys performed better in schools where girls made up more than 60% of the population and referenced other studies that theorized that the connection was not direct, but that girls tended to encourage a boy’s academic performance by their contributions to the school’s learning climate. Another study in Spain bore similar results, indicating that an increase in the percentage of girls at a school created a statistically significant positive impact on the academic achievement of boys while it did not affect the academic performance of girls at all. Of course, this research contradicts the conclusions of other researchers who feel that both boys and girls perform better in same-sex classrooms because of the differences in the way they learn. Clearly, more research in the matter of how gender affects schooling lies ahead.