Er det skolens skyld? En kunnskapsoversikt om skolens bidrag til kjønnsforskjeller i skoleprestasjoner
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- NOVA rapport 
In general, girls achieve better than boys in Norwegian compulsory school. Why is this, and to what extent does the school system in itself play an active role in giving boys poorer conditions for learning? One common point of view is that the school system is unable to integrate boys’ needs when organizing the teaching environment. Others focus on the lack of male role models in school as well as in kindergarten. Yet another supposition is that girls achieve better than boys because their values correspond better with the school culture. Such points of view are often included in public debates about the so-called "feminization of the school". Others, however, argue that the gender difference results from a "masculinity crisis", where old forms of masculinity are in direct conflict with the ethos of modern schooling. The aim of this report is to analyze different suppositions about the role of the school system in actively creating gender differences in school achievement. The report collates, analyzes and reviews existing empirical studies explicitly focusing on this issue. The search was limited to studies published in Scandinavian languages or English, mainly concentrating on the compulsory years. However, the report also includes how kindergarten may prepare boys and girls differently for their everyday lives at school. In addition the report highlights research which may give directions for successful intervention. Finally, one chapter presents some central theories about how existing gender differences can be explained. One main finding is that there is a dearth of empirically based knowledge that contributes directly to any of the points of view delineated above. Actually, few have investigated whether the learning environment is better suited to girls. In particular this pertains to Norwegian research, but international research does not contribute to any large extent either. Most Norwegian school research either has not been concerned with explaining the gender differences in school achievement, or the explanations offered focus solely on conditions outside school. Studies of class-room dynamics have focused on how gender relations are played out in this context, but such studies rarely aim to explain whether the observed patterns also give rise to different learning conditions for girls and boys. Norwegian kindergarten research tells us that the staff can contribute to maintaining and reinforcing gender differences, but it tells us little about how kindergarten may prepare boys and girls differently for future learning conditions. However, the review has contributed to some clarifications. Norwegian as well as international studies conclude that gender counts when it comes to how children and teachers interrelate in the class-room. The studies show that, past and present, boys dominate the class-room and receive more attention from the teacher. This implies that class-room interaction cannot by itself be a strong explanation of boys’ poorer school achievement. In addition such studies challenge the traditional way of focusing on girls and boys as two distinct and different categories. Rather, it seems as if a small group of pupils, encompassing a majority of boys but also girls, are the ones to receive more attention from the teachers than the others. To a large extent this is the case independently of whether the teacher is male or female. Nor is this difference connected with systematic and conscious discrimination of girls. Rather, the teachers attempt to limit what is seen as behaviour that inhibits and disrupts learning. Giving more attention to boys in the class-room can thus be interpreted as part of the teachers’ strategies to keep order and create a positive learning climate. In addition, some teachers may focus on boys to help them create a better situation for themselves in class. The hypothesis that thefeminization of school is an importantreasonforboys’ poorer school achievement has been investigated in some international studies, but has not received much empirical support. On the contrary it seems as if the gender of the teacher means relatively little. In addition it is not clear whether boys learn more from a male teacher. Research results are ambiguous, but most studies conclude that the significance is non-existent or negligible. These studies rather underline the significance of the teacher’s competence and his or her ability to disseminate. Another theme investigated in the report is whether the evaluation system of the school and its “hidden curriculum» are better suited for girls. However, this issue has not been extensively researched either. One Norwegian study indicates that girls’ grades profit by evaluation systems that are based on texts, as writing appeals more to girls than to boys. In addition there is reason to believe that girls profit when the school work assessed over time constitute the main part of the final grades, as boys and girls usually get more similar grades on national exams. In addition there are signs of structures that create gender inequality in the teachers’ expectations to their pupils, their professional interest in individuals, and the assessment culture in the schools. But more research is needed within this area. It is more unclear, however, whether the ways of organizing the dissemination of the curricula favour the girls per se. The literature search did not unearth any studies explicitly focusing on the significance of indivualised forms of teaching for boys and girls respectively. One English study indicates that girls may profit more from project based maths teaching, while boys do not depend on how the teaching is organized to the same extent. It is not clear whether such results can be generalized to other subjects. Further, the use of gender-equal groups apparently shows neither positive nor negative results. The research collated underlines that the effects depend on how such groups are implemented. At the same time several authors argue that gender-separated activities might further cement sex role stereotype attitudes. Nor do such activities in themselves solve problems associated with the dominance structures in the class-room. To sum up: in the research literature analyzed here, few conclude explicitly that schools create sex differences in achievement. This point of view is further supported by the fact that the patterns of sex differences seem to be fairly consistent over time, between schools in the same country and between countries. And the differences remain even though the national contexts differ considerably with regard to school policies, how teaching is organized, and the pedagogical methods that dominate. This supports a conclusion that schools rather contribute to the reproduction of already existing differences. Thus, further knowledge must be sought and developed by studying the interrelationship between a series of factors, whether the school is able to influence them or not. This shows that sex differences in school achievement results from complex processes. In addition the report shows the problems following from focusing solely on sex differences. Most studies show large variations in school achievement within both sexes, and mean differences are rarely dramatically large. Even though girls in general do better than boys, differences associated with class background have greater significance for what and how much the pupils learn. Another point is that the size of the sex differences varies according to the skills measured. Thedifferences are largest in literacy, but negligible in maths. Girls score better all over on tests of knowledge that depends on reflection and interpretation(i.e.activeuse of language skills), while the sex differences are smaller when facts-based knowledge is measured. To sum up, categorizing boys as the losers and girls as the winners in school is an oversimplification. This review also highlights that more recent school research has shown variations in the ways of doing gender. What is seen as feminine and masculine ways of behaviour vary between contexts and individuals. Analyses of quantitative data again show considerable differences within groups. And when we analyze how pupils behave in the class-room, both boys and girls shape and enact their role as pupils or individuals in a variety of ways. Such differences tend to disappear when we focus too much on mean differences between girls and boys, and when sex-specific interventions targeting boys or girls as groups are implemented as a consequence. What does research say about successful efforts to reduce sex differences in school achievement? Few studies exist within a Norwegian context. However, our literature search unearthed that the issue has been particularly focused on by British school researchers during the last 10â€“15 years. Their contributions point to the relatively limited effects of short-term interventions, particularly those who have been implemented without being an integrated part of the schools’ teaching work in general. Still, the research indicates that many of the interventions are potentially effective, as long as they are integrated in holistic and long-term strategies to develop learning conditions for all pupils â€“ irrespective of sex. According to these British researchers the most successful interventions are those decided on by the schools themselves, based on concrete analyses of existing problems. One essential challenge is to break down the barriers of some pupils â€“ particularly in junior high school â€“ against learning. To achieve this schools have to work towards a holistic and inclusive school culture. This conclusion is based on the supposition that pupils in general will respond positively if they feel valued, and if they experience that their school acts in the pupils’ best interests. In addition to better individual school achievement, this strategy will lead to increased empowerment among teachers, pupils and parents. The key to an inclusive school culture partly lies with the school leadership, partly in the choice of pedagogic strategy, and partly in creating collaboration and partnership among all relevant contributors to the pupils’ learning process (the pupils themselves, parents, school employees, the local environment, school authorities etc). Even though the school is probably not a decisive factor in creating sex differences in school achievement, we conclude that the school can be an important factor in reducing these differences. The British project “Raising boys’ achievement» shows that this is possible at the same time underlining that no easy solutions exist. Long-term efforts are necessary, directed towards increasing the learning opportunities of all pupils regardless of sex, ethnicity or class.Gutter oppnår gjennomsnittlig dårligere læringsresultater i grunnskolen enn jenter. Forskjellene er ikke dramatiske, men synes å være nokså robuste i tid og rom. Rapporten gir en oversikt over forskning som belyser barnehagens og skolens bidrag til slike kjønnsforskjeller og diskuterer forutsetninger for at tiltak kan bidra til utjevning. Et hovedfunn er at det foreligger lite forskning som direkte undersøker sammenhenger mellom skolens virkemåte og gutter og jenters læring. Mye tyder på at skolens viktigste bidrag er at den reproduserer allerede eksisterende forskjeller. For å utjevne slike forskjeller må skolen bestrebe seg på å utvikle en inkluderende skolekultur, hvor både gutter og jenter får utnyttet sitt potensiale for å lære.