Gender Differences in the Classroom
Education is the process through which academic, social, and cultural ideas and tools are developed. Schools are supposed to teach basic skills, supply knowledge, and socialize students. We expect students to leave school with the ability to read, write, and do arithmetic. Each student goes through the process of socialization while in school. Schools should transmit values, beliefs, and attitudes that are important in American society. In the United States, every child has to go through education, but not everyone experiences the same educational experience. Some believe that educational experiences of girls and boys differ, while others believe that they are the same. This paper will examine the educational experiences of girls and boys, see if they are different, and if so, will analyze what causes these differences in educational experiences.
In general, tracking usually happens in the traditional American school. Tracking is a way of dividing students into different classes by ability or future plans. What this means is that there will be classes that divide students based on the level of ability or the type of preparation that the class is doing. Tracking is supposed to provide a better learning environment for all students. “Dividing students into different tracks is instrumental in both preparing them for their future positions and explaining the large differences we observe among students within schools” (Conley 507). Conley is saying that dividing students is good because it helps prepare them for their future and it also explains differences that we see among students in schools. This means that there should be an equal opportunity for both boys and girls to be in these classes if they meet the requirements of being in this class. This would provide them a similar educational experience. However, a similar educational experience in these classes is not always the case.
Both boys and girls can get into these classes that tracking allows, but teachers have an impact on the learning experiences of the students. The classroom pressure cooker is the idea that students and teachers spend hours of their days together under the teachers’ authority and what goes on in the classroom will play an important role in the students outcomes. In general, teachers hold different expectations for different students. “Teachers seem to have low expectations for certain groups of students more frequently – for example, boys, minorities, and lower-income youths – even when they have the same cognitive ability as students in other groups” (Conley 511-512). Conley is mentioning that teachers place lower expectations for certain groups of students, usually boys. This means that boys will usually receive more attention during class because of the lower expectations placed on them. Also, teachers will usually give more attention to boys so that they stay out of trouble since boys are more likely to misbehave. Boys are generally the ones to ask questions in class, whereas girls generally remain quiet in class. “Girls, the authors show, are frequently bullied out of classroom discussion, put down by their male classmates, and effectively silenced” (Conley 311). This means that boys will tend to dominate classroom discussion and won’t give the girls a chance to partake in the discussion. This will result in girls receiving less attention in the classroom. Lastly, teachers will usually give more praise to boys when they do something correct or get a good grade, than they will to girls. This difference in educational experiences is caused by a mix of both biological and sociological influences. Biologically, boys are more likely to misbehave, which would result in more attention given to boys by teachers. Sociologically, boys tend to dominate the classroom in terms of discussion, which results in more attention to boys. In conclusion, teachers will generally give more attention and praise to boys in the classroom than girls, which would result in different educational experiences for boys and girls and different outcomes.
Another cause for different educational experiences for boys and girls is socioeconomic status. Socioeconomic status is an individual’s position in a stratified social order. Girls and boys will face a difference in educational experiences depending on parental educational attainment, parental occupational status, family income, and family wealth. “Girls from all backgrounds started to do better in school. At the same time, boys living with single mothers or in households where the father had a high-school education or less started doing much worse” (Conley 530). Conley is stating that after the mid-1960’s, girls generally started to do better in school no matter what background they come from and boys started to do worse in school if they lived in a single mother household or live in a household where the father has a high school education or less. This would mean that these boys are going to face inequality in the classroom due to their socioeconomic status. If boys are living in a household where the father has a high school education or less, then the father generally won’t be able to help them with their schoolwork due to the difficulty of it. If boys are living in a single mother household, then generally their family wealth and income will be less than that of a normal family, and will result in boys not having equal educational opportunities. This will result in different educational experiences of girls and boys, depending on whether or not, boys or girls, can afford the best educational opportunities and/or get help with their homework from their parents. This difference in educational experiences is caused by sociological influences.
Girls and boys generally learn differently in the classroom and this results in a difference in their educational outcomes. Girls used to lag behind boys in educational outcomes, but recently they have done better than boys in educational outcomes. Research has been done and has proven that girls are less likely to dropout of high school or repeat a grade compared to boys. If boys are more likely to dropout of high school or repeat a grade that means that they are having troubles in the classroom which means girls and boys are learning differently in the classroom since girls aren’t having as much trouble with the class. “Furthermore, in 2013, 66.2 percent of the graduate degrees awarded were earned by women” (Conley 530). Conley mentions that 66.2 percent of graduate degrees were earned by women in 2013, this means that 33.8 percent were earned by men. This is interesting because we know that usually girls tend to get less attention in the classroom compared to their male counterparts. So the question is, why is there such a big gap between the percent of women getting a graduate degree to that of men? This must mean that women are learning differently in someway in the classroom compared to men if they are achieving more graduate degrees. This could also have to do with credentialism. Credentialism is an overemphasis on credentials for signaling social status or job qualifications. Women might be earning higher degrees than men do so they have a better chance at getting the job that they want due to the job demanding a higher education level. Also, women face inequality in the workplace, and depending on what job they want to get, they could face gender stereotypes when applying for a job. This could be why more women are getting graduate degrees than men because they want to be more qualified than men and have a better chance in obtaining a job. In conclusion, girls usually learn differently than boys, and this is shown by the number of women getting higher levels of education compared to their male counterparts. This means that boys and girls are going to have differences in their educational experiences, since women are going to face more difficult classes in their graduate level than men are if they only go for a bachelor’s.
For the most part girls and boys are interested in different subjects and careers. In general, girls are more interested in liberal arts subjects and nursing, whereas boys are generally more interested in STEM classes or trades. There could be girls that go for STEM classes or trade, and there could be boys that go for liberal art subjects or nursing, but for the most part girls and boys are interested in different subjects and careers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2015 the three most common occupation for women is elementary and middle school teachers, registered nurses, and secretaries and administrative assistants. Whereas, for men, their top occupation is driver/sales workers and truck drivers. The Department of Labor also gives a percentage of women and men that occupy that job. For elementary and middle school teachers, women are 80.7% of the total employed, and men are 19.3% percent of the total employed.
For registered nurses, women make up 89.4%, and men make up 10.6% of the total employed. For secretaries and administrative assistants, women make up 94.5% of total employed, and men make up 5.5% of total employed. For truck drivers, women make up 5.1% and men make up 94.9% of total employed. For construction laborers, women make up 2.9%, and men make up 97.1% of total employed. These 5 careers mentioned all show significant differences in the amount of women compared to the amount of men in that given career. This proves that girls and boys are interested in different subjects and careers and this has to do with gender stereotypes. These gender stereotypes have always been around, and they are that boys generally should be the ones doing trades and going for STEM related fields, whereas girls should be going to be secretaries, teachers, or nurses. These jobs all have a gender attached to them and people believe that that gender should be the ones doing the job. For the job of secretaries, people associate females to do that job, and females make up 94.5% of the job. For the job of construction laborers, people associate men to do that job, and men make up 97.1% of the job. In general, gender stereotypes are the reason that girls and boys are interested in different subjects and careers. This will results in different educational experiences of girls and boys since they are going to take different classes for that career that they want and some classes may be harder than others.
In conclusion, girls receive different educational experiences than those of boys. This is due to a number of reasons. The first reason being the role teachers play in these educational experiences. Within the classroom, it is common for boys to receive more attention from the teachers than girls do due to sociological and biological influences. The second reason that educational experiences differ is due to socioeconomic status. Some students won’t be able to afford equal educational opportunities such as tutors due to their socioeconomic status and this will result in different educational experiences. The third reason for different educational experiences is due to the fact that girls and boys learn differently and achieve different educational outcomes. More women are achieving higher levels of education than men do because of credentialism and they want to avoid gender stereotypes when applying for a job by being more qualified than men. This will cause different educational experiences since women are doing more schooling than men do. The last reason for different educational experiences is due to boy and girls liking different subjects and careers. This is due to gender stereotypes within careers. These gender stereotypes will result in boys and girls taking different classes and hence having different educational experiences. Some can argue that the idea of tracking provides boys and girls the same educational experiences, but this is not true because of what actually goes on inside the classrooms. Overall, educational experiences differ among girls and boys due to a number of sociological and biological influences.
- Conley, Dalton. You May Ask Yourself: an Introduction to Thinking like a Sociologist. 5th ed., W W Norton, 2017.
- “Most Common Occupations for Women.” Women’s Bureau (WB) Most Common Occupations for Women, U.S. Department Of Labor, www.dol.gov/wb/stats/most_common_occupations_for_women.htm.