I read an interesting article recently which carried out a Q&A session with the researcher of a study on the ”self-fulfilling stereotypes surrounding boys at school”.
The aim of the study was to try to identify at what age children acquire the stereotype that boys are not as good academically as girls. It goes on to look at the whether the messages that support this perception add to the stereotype.
Stereotypes in general, I have found can often be self-fulfilling. In other words because you are expected to do something you end up doing it.
Distinctions between boys and girls are often reinforced very early on by parents, who dress little boys in blue and little girls in pink. As the children grow, they are often given stereotypical toys to play with. Such as, girls with dolls and boys with toy guns. I’ve often wondered what would be the result if children had a choice of what their first toys were to be.
I recall being in my first class at primary school and being absolutely fascinated by the Russian doll that sat on the window sill. However, at the end of the day when you were given a choice of toy to play with I was never allowed to play with this Russian doll. Don’t worry; I’m not going to get all upset here as I’ve got my own collection of Russian dolls now. I also believe that recognising diversity in teaching is the corner stone of many teachers’ practices these days. So, this is not a criticism of teachers.
Returning to the study itself, it was discovered that some children were as young as 7 or 8 when they began to associate girls with working harder and doing better. The worrying thing for me is that these gender stereotypes are having a negative impact on the academic achievements of boys. It concludes in the article that ways to challenge this are to promote positive gender expectations and to challenge negative academic stereotypes.
It is clear that we should recognise gender diversity in schools as much as we do cultural diversity but this should not fall into negative stereotyping based on gender.
The full article can be viewed here. http://www.scienceomega.com/article/808/self-fulfilling-stereotypes-surrounding-boys-at-school