Gender differences in educational contexts - how teachers and schools can reduce them

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Predominantly men in STEM professions, unexploited potential, wage inequality – all of these are consequences of gender stereotypes. Our newly published study shows that teachers and schools can specifically promote the motivation and interest of students and thus have the potential to reduce gender differences.

Junge und Mädchen bauen ein ferngesteuertes Auto.
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Do boys have more interest in mathematics? Are girls more motivated when it comes to reading? Studies show that depending on gender, pupils display differences in interest, motivation and career plans. Why does this occur? And how can teachers and schools encourage students to reach their full potential, regardless of gender? This is what Kaley Lesperance and Prof. Doris Holzberger, together with a team of researchers, have addressed in their latest study on gender differences in educational contexts.

Previous research shows that girls in particular are still disadvantaged in STEM subjects. However, as far as intervention measures in STEM subjects that promote motivation and interest are concerned, girls also seem to be the bigger winners. The evaluated data indicates that especially the disadvantaged gender may benefit in the respective subject. "With our research results, we hope to open doors for teachers and schools to develop strategies for teaching that contribute to reducing gender differences," says Kaley Lesperance, who was primarily in charge of the study.

It also seems that taking action at an early age pays off: If teachers encourage younger children to question gender stereotypes, this can have a particularly positive effect on their motivation and interest. In general, any measures taken will have an effect on students of any age – and of any gender. Children and teenagers also ascribe a higher value to a subject if they know how useful the things they have learnt will be for their later lives. This is where measures in the classroom can have an impact.

For teachers and schools, this means that it is worthwhile to always keep gender disadvantages in mind. As our study shows, teachers can encourage students to question stereotypical role attributions. It can be a fundamental component for opening the door to different career paths for all children and teenagers, irrespective of their gender. And in the end, the whole class benefits from measures to increase motivation and interest.

Zum wissenschaftlichen Artikel „Reducing gender differences in student motivational-affective factors: A meta-analysis of school-based interventions.