Importance of Literacy for Boys and Girls in Primary Schools

Document Type:Dissertation

Subject Area:Education

Document 1

Several key findings were uncovered; for example, parents of children enrolled in the middle range and underachieving institutions responded less positively when compared to the overachieving school; thus, indicating weaker feelings of self-efficacy and beliefs that children had a bright future ahead of them. It was suggested that being members of lower-income families may subject students to teachers who may not be as skilled as those teaching at overachieving school schools, and in turn, affect achievement rates. Teaching staff recognised different expectations for both genders in regard to literacy - with boys lagging behind, but opposed hiring men into the profession, as they believe changes in pedagogical practices can resolve gender-related disparities and the gender of the instructors is insignificant. In conclusion, self-perception does hold a correlation with outcomes within literacy achievement as boys appear to lack self-belief whilst perceptions of parents and teachers of students also played role in terms of how these boys see themselves and their abilities. Contents Chapter 1 - Introduction p. Chapter 2 - Purpose of the study p. Theoretical framework p. Scope of the study p. Research questions p. Hypothesis p. Chapter 3 - Literature review p. Chapter 4 - Methodology p. Ethics p. Research design p. Participants p. Instruments p. Chapter 5 – Results/Findings p. Chapter 6 - Discussion p. Conclusion p. Chapter 7 - References p. Chapter 8 - Appendices p. Chapter 1 – Introduction Literacy is an important life skill and an absence of this can mean individuals are excluded from well-paying jobs, denied important life opportunities, and face diminished earnings potential.

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In regard to children; poor literacy skills can segregate lower-performing children from their peers and erode their self-confidence. This is supported by scholars such as Millard (2002) and Hebert and Stipek (2005) as discussed further on. This study focuses on differences existing in literacy results of boys and girls in primary school. School B (middle range school) is considered to be of a ‘good’ standard as per Ofsted’s inspections, with average numbers of students belonging to disadvantaged groups within society and meets the minimum requirements of attainment and progress set by the government; and so, this should allow us to gain insights into whether results vary at this middle range school. Whereas, School C (overachieving school) is regarded as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted whilst students are meeting all set requirements in regard to progress and achievement and students who are considered special needs are considered to have all relevant needs and personal action plans in place to an outstanding standard (Ofsted C, 2016, p.

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Perceptions, in regard to this study, can mean the following: the importance attached to literacy by the child, family, and society enveloping the child; the importance attached to parental involvement in attempting to positively affect the child’s literacy; and the feelings of self-efficacy that the child has with regards to their own efforts. Perceptions surrounding parental involvement, the desirability of high literacy achievement, and personal self-efficacy can certainly impact achievement rates as suggested in research conducted by Hebert and Stipek (2005). Through interviews, questionnaires, and focus groups, this research study will endeavour to capture the attitudes of children, parents and teachers towards literacy, and then, see if these attitudes explain differences in the literacy achievements of children within primary school settings in the United Kingdom. School A has been described as ‘requiring improvement’ to their services with the majority of students belonging to minority ethnic groups, receiving free school meals and defined as disadvantaged students; they have also been known to meet to bare “minimum expectations for attainment and progress” (Ofsted A, 2016, p.

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School B has also been described as a larger than average school with a wider range of students however they possess relatively low number of students who are considered disadvantaged, disabled or receive free school meals; the school is considered ‘good’ and meets the government set expectations for pupils’ attainment and progress in English and mathematics (Ofsted B, 2016, p. School C has been deemed as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted; who also describe the student ratio of the school to be made up of predominantly ‘White British’ students and also, the school meets current government set “requirements for pupils’ attainment and progress in reading, writing and mathematics” (Ofsted C, 2016, p. Research questions The research questions this study discusses is: ‘Do perceptions regarding literacy affect achievement rates?’ In order to successfully achieve this several additional questions will be examined.

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For instance, do perceptions about literacy differ between boys and girls? What other variables contribute to any differences in perceptions and then achievement rates? And finally, what might the reason be for this? Hypothesis The initial hypothesis is that perceptions about literacy do impact achievement rates among both boys and girls at the primary school level. The focus then switches to self-efficacy and self-perceptions when discussing the work of scholars such as Millard (2002), Parker et al (2017) and Pansu et al (2016). And finally, Perceptions are then looked into in terms of familial perceptions, cultural perceptions, and perceptions of teachers and whether these hold a correlation when compared to achievement by scholars such as Power (2001) and Spera et al (2009). Chavis (2012) have indicated that SLT is able to “explain human behaviour in terms of continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioural, and environmental influences… Thus, establishing high expectations and enthusiasm about course material and student preparation and participation is paramount" (Chavis, 2012, p.

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They dictate that they have come to these conclusions once they studied work of previous theorists; in particular Bandura (Bandura, 1968 and 1977 as cited in Chavis, 2012, p. The scholars explain Bandura’s (1997) SLT as a four-step system used to describe a cognitive and operant view of learning; essentially, “the individual notices something in the environment, the individual remembers what was noticed, the individual produces a behaviour, and the environment delivers a consequence" (Chavis, 2012, p. Skinner (1953, 1974) documented that when behaviour occurs, whatever follows it (the consequences of behaviour) can either increase or decrease the frequency, duration, or intensity of the behaviour" (Crittenden, 2005, p. Therefore, when considering the importance SLT it is suggested that this theory would be key when considering the perceptions towards literacy, why they are as they are, alongside, why they may affect the outcomes gained by children.

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Smidt (2009) discusses Vygotsky’s proposed theory that learning of all types is social; this suggests that the role of other individuals around the learner should not be ignored as they contribute to learning processes. For example, the presence of peers, teachers or parents/carers would allow for further interactions to take place and the learner can draw upon previous experiences whilst forming new experiences to create their unique skill set which is socially and culturally constructed. This leads to the suggestion that in order for learning/teaching to be successful the social and cultural tools the learner already possess must be identified and adapted for and only then will the learner be able to further build their skills. They suggest that literacy demands close introspection, empathetic response and requires a creative and personalised means of self-expression.

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Ultimately, they suggest schools need to work with a broader range of texts, instead of particular staple texts; the alternative texts that seem most appropriate to engaging boys are interactive texts/games (Alloway and Gilbert 1997, pp. Scholars, such as Coles and Hall (2002), propose that it should not be believed that "'unofficial' texts are any less important in shaping pupils' imaginative capacity and view of the world than those prompted by the national curriculum" (Coles and Hall, 2002, p. Martino and Berrill (2003) insist men must take an active role in interrupting the “cultural scripts of normative masculinity” that supposedly ignore the multiple-layered experiences of young male students; in other words, muscular masculinity makes boys resistant to any teaching that threatens the narrow definition they have of what it means to be a boy or a man (Martino and Berrill, 2003, p.

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The general tone of the article above is that boys who are more feminine or offer a different construction of masculinity must also be given a voice so that normative masculinity can be reshaped, and an ampler masculinity is established (Martino and Berrill, 2003, pp. Approximately half of those consulted indicated that they did adapt their pedagogical practices to accommodate the perceived differences in learning styles between the genders (Carrington and McPhee, 2008, p. Carrington and McPhee (2008) oppose a differentiated approach, noting that the efficacy of such pedagogical approaches has been previously called into question by other academics (Younger, Warrington and McLellan (2005) cited by Carrington and McPhee, 2008, p. Parker et al (2017) suggest that assimilation and social comparison factors and pressures, do play some role in their own self-concept about efficacy in different areas of study.

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However, other factors of one sort or another also do come into play. This is evidenced by the quote below; “girls had lower general academic and math social comparison and that their advantage in literacy social comparison diminished over time. The scholars note that, even while girls outperformed boys on literacy achievement in year 3 and 5, the ratings of parents and of children in regard to literacy ability did not betray differential perceptions between boys and girls. Through regression analysis, actual achievement and teacher ratings were deemed by Herbert and Stipek (2005) as the predominant predictors of a child's personal judgment about their individual literacy skills. These scholars suggest that boys are implicitly favoured by perceptions that grant them a level of competence they do not possess relative to girls, while girls are supposedly not recipients of similar perceptions.

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Family and local cultural factors seem to be significant variables when assessing what instigates differences between different children as far as their literacy achievement is concerned. Spera et al (2009) carried out a study that looked at the role parental aspirations play in educational achievement levels of their children. Jones and Myhill (2004) note that their work with four focus groups – high and low-achieving boys, high and low-achieving girls – reveals that teacher perceptions tend to lead to an oversimplification; specifically, under-achieving boys are seen as conforming to gender expectations, while high-achieving girls are seen as conforming to the expectations teachers have of girls. Equally, the high-achieving male student was seen as challenging gender norms, while the under-achieving girl was dismissed. Essentially, boys were largely associated with under-achievement while girls were largely associated with high achievement (Jones & Myhill, 2004, p.

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Power (2001) conducted a study exploring the perceptions of English school teachers towards female and male literacy outcomes and participation; they argue that many factors seem to be impacting young boys at this time. For example, differential attitudes towards reading; differential reading practices; differential engagement with recreational reading; varying family literacy practices and the enveloping digital culture (Power, 2001, pp. Therefore, gender-specific, strategies must be introduced into classrooms in order to engage boys in literacy (Senn, 2012, p. Chapter 4 – Methodology This dissertation aims to answer the following research questions; whether perceptions about literacy affect achievement rates? do perceptions about literacy differ between boys and girls? What other variables may contribute to any differences in perceptions and then achievement rates? And finally, what might the reason be for this? An interpreted paradigm in the form of triangulation of methods as this was seen as a more dependable way to ensure reliability and validity in the data gathered, and therefore, allow reliable and valid conclusions to be made alongside building the chances of generalisation in results.

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In essence, the core method of data collection will be a controlled intervention wherein the work of students is used to measure their actual level of literacy. The aim is to examine the relationship between gender and achievement rates via the introduction of a literacy test for the young people being surveyed that will be calibrated to their grade and age level. In conjunction, the use of questionnaires has been adopted to allow observations to be made in regard to what connections may be found between achievement and gender – and the perceptions of the students, parents/carers, and teachers. Once the Head of each establishment understood what would be done they accepted and signed the ethical approval forms (Appendix A: Signed Ethical Approval Form) which was then sent to my dissertation supervisor to review and sign once they felt all appropriate measures were taken to safeguard all ethical issues and the planned outcomes of the data collection tools were achievable and appropriate.

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I also obtained consent from parents/carers of the children that would be involved in the study; this was done via a consent letter and participation information sheets (Appendix B: Consent Form and Appendix C: Participant Information Sheet) which stated the purpose of my study, what they/their child would be doing and how this information would be used. The consent letter also reiterated that all information regarding them/their child would be kept confidential and, that parents/carers had the right to withdraw themselves/their child from the study at any point within the study. All of the above was also completed in reference to the teaching professionals who participated in the study. Research Design The research design is intended to be prompt and simplistic. This focus group featured a total of 27 children: 8 came from the underachieving school; 10 came from the middle range school educational institution, and the remaining 9 came from the overachieving school educational institution.

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Lastly, a focus group was established for the teachers and teaching assistants. As requested, and as expected, all 8 of the teaching staff, agreed to be part of a focus group exploring their sentiments on male-female literacy rates and the role played by perceptions on student achievement. The interviews were, as was the case with the focus group, rather modest in total number. Among the students, given their age and difficulty in expressing themselves, only 18 were selected for interviews: 5 from the underachieving school; 5 from the middle range school institution; and 8 from the overachieving school institution. The children have not been randomized on the basis of ethnicity or race, but all of the classrooms are particularly diverse with children from many different cultural backgrounds. As mentioned at the beginning of this paper, 132 students from 6 Year were sampled.

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Out of all of these children, it is reassuring to note that 120 did complete the questionnaire. Therefore, the final tally of male and female students who responded to the questionnaire materials stands at 24 boys for the overachieving school institution; the middle range school institution has 13, and the underachieving school has 16 boys who responded. For the young female students, the final tally ultimately stands at 23 girls for the underachieving school; 22 girls for the middle range school educational institution; and 22 girls for the overachieving school educational institution. The final tally of participating parents/carers can be seen below in Table D. Table D. Final Tally of Participating Parents/Carers. Instruments The critical instruments for the study will be as follows: the Likert Scale Questionnaire with its consequent extended response sections; a participation information sheet that highlights the confidentiality of the poll, as well as the voluntary nature of the questionnaires; a qualitative coding system that colour codes specific words or phrases that either indicate (or deny) a relationship between literacy and gender; and an cumulative worksheet that presents student grades longitudinally over the course of the school year.

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The final instrument, of course, is the controlled intervention (literacy test) that will act as a means of diagnosing student achievement levels without merely relying upon pre-existing evaluations compiled by other questionnaire respondents – the teachers themselves. Do your parents buy you books to read? Finally, and this should not come as a surprise, the children who were from privileged homes were the most insistent and undeviating in mentioning that their parents did help them with their reading tasks; their parents were more likely to buy them books than the children in the other two groups (as shown in Figure 4). The child respondents from the underachieving school responded more negatively to the questions above and seemed to suggest that their parents were much less involved in their education. As far as the parents are concerned, the questionnaire materials to which they responded, indicate that socioeconomic and gendered variables are at play in their perceptions about their own child's capacity, their view of the importance of parental involvement, and their hopes for the future.

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Figure 5. Do you believe that reading is important for career success, or is it perhaps overrated? As presented in Figure 5 parents from the underachieving school were more likely than the others to argue that reading was somewhat overrated when it came to be achieving professional or career success. Figure 9. Do you have reading materials in the classroom that appeal to readers of both genders? It may also be noted that out of the respondents that indicated that they had reading materials in the classroom that appealed to both genders, 3 were employed at the overachieving school institution, while the remaining individual worked at the middle range school institution (refer to Figure 9 above). Hence, it is plausible to argue that lower-income families may be subjected to teachers who are not as skilled as those teaching at more exclusive educational institutions.

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In any event, the instructors contacted via questionnaire widely acknowledged different learning expectations for boys and girls in regard to literacy (with boys lagging behind) but were strongly opposed to hiring more men into the professional, believing instead that smart pedagogical practices by the teacher in the classroom – male or female – was more consequential than the gender of the instructor. Focus Group Findings For the focus group analysis to be done, twenty-seven students from three schools were chosen randomly. The male genders from all the institutions pointed out that the learning materials that intrigued them were not available in the classrooms. Parents have a great impact to the foundation of a child’s education thus they should always assist them in doing their homework and inspire them to be better people in the current society.

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It is important to note that from the information I gathered, a mother is more helpful and keen about a child’s academics than a father. Every parent in the focus group believed that introducing a child to literacy is a step in making their future bright but it is only those from the fancy schools that could come up with more reasons why a child needs to be taken to school. Parents from the less and medium privileged schools confirmed the theory that mothers are more supportive to their children in the education sector than the fathers. It was a challenge to conduct the research as the interviewees are of tender age thus are not open which really restricted the information that was collected. All children showed excitement in reading but the exception reaction was received from the learners of the high privileged school.

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Learners complained that they weren’t trained according to their weaknesses and strengthens except those from the high rated schools. The male gender confessed their lack of excitement in learning which was a different case with the female. The level of interest and optimism of a parent about a child’s academics had better results than in the high rated school than the others. There is also a strong sense that socioeconomic status plays a critical role: children from high-income homes tend to be taught by more accomplished and more innovative teachers, tend to have more assertive and engaged parents aiding them, receive more supplementary support, and do appear to enjoy reading comparatively more than their less-affluent counterparts (Skelton, 2002). These children reside in homes that have more books, and parents who are more accomplished readers, more prolific readers, and who probably have more strategies for aiding their children in their literary pursuits.

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These parents are also more demanding of teachers and more willing to offer suggestions – whether welcomed or not. Additionally, boys in the more affluent homes do much better than boys in less-privileged surroundings; while a gender gap continues to persist, it seems narrower, and the children in these homes are more hopeful about their own ability to read and have parents in their lives who are more decisively committed to the idea that a promising future awaits them (Power, 2001, 49-60). It also cannot be passed over without comment that the fact teachers in more affluent schools are more innovative and more interactive with students (and somewhat less willing to accept the premise that boys are invariably doomed to be less capable readers than girls) is indicative of the stark reality that more affluent communities generally can attract more capable and talented instructors than communities that lack considerable wealth or resources (Smidt, 2009).

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Parental attitudes are vitally important to the child's own sentiments in regard to learning and reading. Parents who are engaged and filled with sentiments of self-efficacy will be better instructors in the home, model more exemplary behaviour, and will expend greater amounts of energy so as to ensure that their children are able to read competently. Finally, to the extent that teacher expectations play a role, there is some merit to the idea that teachers in less-privileged contexts (though this sentiment is certainly not exclusive just to them) will harbour perceptions about boys and their ability to read that will remove the implementation of innovative initiatives that might aid boys in their literacy achievement. While it is unlikely that any teacher will openly favour attitudes or sentiments that hurt boys, many do seem to think that boys do not need any special help – and, in any event, would do better if their attitudes were better (Younger, 2005).

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This same sentiment is not expressed, of course, when girls lag behind boys in science or mathematics. Changing attitudes will go a long way towards changing test scores. Chapter 7 – References Alloway, N. and Gilbert, P. Boys and literacy: lessons from Australia, Australia, Gender and Education, 9 (1), pp. Baker, L. Digital connections: transforming literacy in the primary school, Cambridge Journal of Education, 36 (1), pp. Burwood, L. Can the National Curriculum Help Reduce Working‐class Under‐ achievement? Educational Studies, 18(3), pp. Carrington, B. Francis, B. and Merrill, C. Role models, school improvement and the gender gap: do men bring out the best in boys, and women the best in girls? British Educational Research Journal, 34 (3), pp. Chavis, A. Social Learning Theory and Behavioural Therapy: Considering Human Behaviours within the Social and Cultural Context of Individuals and Families.

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 Journal of Human Behaviour in the Social Environment, 22(1), pp. uk/bbcswebdav/pid-3267374-dt-content-rid-3128916_1/courses/EDU2015-STD-1617/BERA-Ethical-Guidelines-2011. pdf (Accessed: 23 November 2016). Ethics Code and Procedures (no date). Available at: https://nile. northampton. Carrington, B. Hutchings, M. Read, B. and Hall, I (2008). A perfect match? pupils' and teachers' views of the impact of matching educators and learners by gender, Research Papers in Education, 23 (1), pp. Lack of male teachers: a problem for students or teachers? Pedagogy, culture and society, 8 (2), pp. Lindon, J. Understanding Child Development: 0-8 Years: Linking Theory and Practise. United Kingdom: Hodder Education. Lynch, J. pp. Ofsted B (2016).  Ofsted School B Report. pp. Ofsted C (2016). Van Zanden, B. and Parker, RB. Girls get smart, boys get smug: historical changes in gender differences in math, literacy, and academic social comparison and achievement, Learning and Instruction, pp.

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Power, S. Differing perceptions of boys' reading practices, Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 24 (1), pp. Sokal, L. Katz, H. Chaszewski, L. and Wojcik, C. Goodbye Mr Chips: male teacher shortages and boys' reading achievement, Sex Roles, 56 (9-10), pp. The Implementation of the National Curriculum in Small Primary Schools.  Educational Review, 47(1), pp. Younger, M. Warrington, M. and McLellan, R. Do you feel your teacher is confident in you? 9. Are you sometimes afraid to ask for help from the teacher? 10. Who helps you with reading at home? 11. Do you get to read a lot of books at home? Do your parents buy you books to read? 12. What kind of stuff do you like to read? 13. Do you like to stay in touch with your children's teachers, or do you prefer to just leave them alone? 9.

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Is it your spouse, or you, who spends the most time at home helping your children with homework? 10. What kind of ambitions do you have for your children for the future? 11. Do you think they've improved over the past year as readers? 12. What is the reason, you think, for their successful progress? 13. Do you feel it is necessary to have different reading expectations for boys and girls in the classroom? 9. Do you feel that it is necessary to have different expectations for boys and girls when it comes to reading outcomes and literacy achievement? 10. Do you feel that there should be more male instructors in classrooms to help boys? 11. Or do you believe that the gender of the teacher is less important than the talent of the teacher? 12. Do you believe that children from different socioeconomic backgrounds will have different educational or academic outcomes? 13.

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Do you do a lot of reading at home? 9. What kind of books and magazines do you have in your classroom? 10. What other books or magazines would you like the teachers to bring to your classroom? 11. Do your teachers work with you individually on your reading? 12. Do you feel confident about your reading? 13. What do you think your child's school can do better to help your child (or children) learn? 8. Do you believe that boys are just naturally not as good as girls at reading? 9. Do you think mothers are better able to teach literacy than fathers? 10. Do you believe that teachers have different expectations for boys and girls when it comes to reading? 11. Do you think that a child's self-perception about his or her reading ability determines reading success? 12. Do you find that boys suffer from more test anxiety than do girls? 11.

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Do you feel, as a teacher, that boys are more arrogant about their abilities than are girls? 12. How do you find the expectations of parents in regard to the ability of their children – especially their boys – to learn new literacy skills? In other words, are they pessimistic, or are they optimistic? 13. Are there any special strategies you use to get boys motivated to read? 14. Do you feel that schools should be hiring more male teachers to engage boys? 15. Do you find reading hard? Why do you find it hard? 11. Do you feel confident as a reader? Appendix K: Interview Questions (Parents) 1. What are your feelings about your children's potential as a reader? 2. Does your child enjoy reading? 3. Do you enjoy reading? 4. What are your perceptions with regards to young male readers? 2.

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What are your perceptions with regards to young female readers? 3. Do you feel boys work hard enough to be successful readers? 4. Why do you think they fall short relative to girls? 5. What are some strategies you use to get boys excited about reading? 6. We have minimal support from both our parents and teachers thus we depend on ourselves for self-improvement in the academic field. Interviewer: boys, do you think that you can’t do better than girls in terms of performance? Interviewee high institution): I believe that we all can do to our level best once we decide to. Interviewee (low and medium institution): yes, girls are more preferred to as also they are more dedicated and determined to the cause. Interviewer: thank you for your time. Appendix N: Interview Transcript for Parents: Interviewer: Student Interviewee: Parent(s) of students from the different schools Interview affiliation: boardroom of one of the schools Interviewer: the benefits of your child’s education? Interviewee (High rated institution): it is the only jewel that we can give them that will be of value for the rest of their lives.

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Interviewee (high rated school): No. a child’s performance is determined by only one’s mentality and the learning environment. Interviewer: Thank you for your time. Appendix P: Coding for focus groups COMMENTS STUDENT FOCUS GROUP HIGH RATED INSTITUTION They believed that education is the key to success and positivity brings success. MEDIUM RATED INSTITUTION They had a sense of optimism about the learning process but mentioned that the female gender are more promising than the male.

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