Gender differences in educational achievement: a socio-cultural analysis

Murphy, Patricia and Ivinson, Gabrielle (2004). Gender differences in educational achievement: a socio-cultural analysis. In: Olssen, Mark ed. Culture and learning: Access and opportunity in the classroom. International Perspectives on Curriculum. Greenwich Connecticut, USA: Information Age Publishing Inc, pp. 365–386.



Educational achievement data are one of the main sources by which 'differences' betwen sub-groups, such as girls and boys, are made visible. How we understand the bases of such data is critical in determining how we interpret these measured diferences. It is these interpretations of data that inform the ameliorating actions that are advocated to improve learning for sub-groups.In the chapter the authors discuss how performance trends reported during the 90s supported a growing sense of crisis concerning boys that has been hyped by the media and influenced Government policy. The chapter draws on comparative data from a co-eduacational setting and a single-sex setting for the teaching of English and applies sociocultural analytic distinctions to investigate cultural practices in local settings. The authors challenge representations of gender and assesment that allow achivement data to be treated as though they are, neutral objective truths and demonstrate that educational achievement is, in part, a consequence of the gender -assesment interrelationship, which mediates how teachers represent subject knowledge, and its appropriation by students. The focus on gender in the settings observed amplified rather than ameliorated its effect, and constrained what students felt able to produce in their continuous assessment. The authors argue, therefore, that any attempt to understand the meaning of attainment data has to not only make problematic the assessment process but also the teaching and learning process wherein what is made available to learn, and what it is possible to achieve, and by whom, is realised.

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