Why are Boys Not Achieving?

One of the main areas where boys are not achieving is literacy. International Research has highlighted writing as an area where an increasing number of boys are failing. In the past decade research throughout the world has attempted to highlight reasons for this. “The Puzzle of Boys’ Educational Decline” Jennifer Buckingham (1999) discusses four factors that are considered to affect boys achievement:

• biological differences between girls and boys affecting capacities and interests
• gender biases which define certain activities or skills as not masculine
• teaching, curriculum and assessment
• socio-economic factors

Whatever the underlying causes we need to motivate all students in their own learning and give them access to a curriculum that suits both genders. Good quality teaching engages all inclusively providing opportunities and challenges for thinking with diverse meaningful tasks to encourage ownership by the learner. However, we are not getting it right for boys in the area of writing. Some of the approaches as discussed in the “Boys’ Education: Good Practice in Secondary Schools” offer a variety of techniques that could be applied both at school and home.

• the use of goals and targets;
• practical, hands-on activities;
• giving boys responsibility for their learning and allowing them to make choices;
• providing high levels of structure and teacher-led activities;
• positive reinforcement;
• using competition in the classroom;
• incorporating physical activity into learning;
• mentoring and peer support programmes;
• the use of outdoor education programmes;
• developing relevant learning activities and contexts;
• importing popular culture texts into classroom reading;
• daily silent reading times
• using computers and other electronic media to support writing
• developing critical literacy approaches, including those that help boys understand how masculinity is created through texts; and
• making school fun for boys and avoiding repetitive learning.

There are some interesting points here well worth revisiting.

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