9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN33 Women's and Gender Studies

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 The Social and Symbolic Construction of Gender Identities - Feminity and Masculinity Building II, C4.01

"Lazy boys and ambitious girls" - The view of school students from a qualitative perspective

After gender equality regarding educational attainment and school performance was largely reached in European countries in the last decades of the 20th century, public attention has shifted towards the growing difficulties of boys in the school system ("boys turn"). The PISA studies provide profound evidence concerning gender differences in performance: girls perform better in languages while boys are stronger in natural sciences and mathematics. And the advantages of girls in languages are more relevant than the advantages of boys in mathematics (Faulstich-Wieland 2004). Furthermore overall marks of girls top those of boys.
This paper intends to examine the effects of gender role models and some individual factors like values and self-concepts of school ability on the performance of girls and boys in the school system. Another interesting question is how these individual characteristics are formed and reproduced in the daily interactions of pupils, for instance when doing gender processes take place. The presented analyses are based on qualitative data that have been gathered in low level and high level secondary grades during group discussions in Switzerland. Inspired by ethnographic approaches the analytic results of the group discussions are complemented by video-based classroom observations.
Preliminary results: A comparison between low level and high level grades indicates that traditional gender roles seem to be more common in lower social strata. Whereas especially boys at low level grades inherit very traditional gender roles, girls represent a larger variety of gender concepts. Analysing the group discussions, a subjective "common sense theory" on the causes of the gender-gap in school achievement may be identified: Girls and boys both to some extent share the assumption that boys in comparison to girls perform worse at school because they adopt an attitude towards school as well as a learning behaviour that is not supporting school achievement.