Why do teachers rate girls higher than boys? Italian researchers have the answer

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Girls regularly receive more generous grades than boys with the same academic skills, concludes a new study of tens of thousands of pupils and their teachers.

This bias towards kids could mean the difference between a pass and a failure in subjects like math. It might as well have wider consequences in areas such as university admission, job choice and earnings, warn Italian researchers.
Their study, published in British Journal of Sociology of Educationhe is the first to demonstrate that the problem is systemic: it is present in a variety of educational settings and regardless of the characteristics of teachers.
Gender gaps in academic achievement are common all over the world. However, the nature of the gap varies with different ways of measuring results.

When standardized test results, which have a standard scoring system, are used, girls typically outperform boys in humanities, languages, and reading skills, while boys perform better in math.

Conversely, when grades are awarded by teachers, women perform better than boys in all subjects.

To find out how teacher assessments tend to favor women, researchers at the University of Trento began by comparing the scores received by nearly 40,000 students in standardized language and mathematics tests with the marks obtained in classroom exams.

The 38,957 students were in 10th grade and so around 15-16 years. The standardized tests were set nationally and marked anonymously, while the classroom exams were set in the classroom and marked non-anonymously by the teachers.

In line with previous studies, girls performed better than boys on standardized language tests, while boys were ahead in math.

The teachers, however, put girls first in both subjects. The average grade for girls in the language was 6.6 (out of 10), compared with 6.2 for boys. In math, the average grade for girls was 6.3, while boys had an average of 5.9, which is lower than the score of 6.

The analysis also showed that when a boy and girl were proficient in a subject, the girl typically received a higher grade.

The researchers then examined whether factors, such as the type of school and the size and gender composition of classes, were driving the gender gap.

They also investigated whether the characteristics of the teachers themselves, such as how old or experienced they were and whether they were men or women, helped explain girls’ more generous grades.

It was found that only two factors have an effect and only in mathematics. The gender gap in math grades was greater when the grades were older. Girls were also ranked as ahead of boys in technical and academic schools compared to vocational schools.

None of the other factors had any significant effect in narrowing the gender classification gap.

Overall, the results show for the first time that girls’ highest grade is systemic, rather than resulting from a particular failure, it is embedded in the entire school system.

The study authors say it is possible that, in reading, teachers may subconsciously reward students who exhibit traditionally feminine behaviors, such as quiet and cleanliness, which make teaching easier for teachers. Another theory is that inflated grades in math are a way of trying to encourage girls, who are often seen as weaker in this subject.

The authors of the study conclude that prejudices against children in Italian schools are considerable and could have long-term consequences.

“There is a strong correlation between having higher grades and desirable educational outcomes, such as getting admitted to good colleges or having a lower chance of dropping out of school,” says researcher Ilaria Lievore, Ph.D. candidate in sociology.

“As a result, higher grades are also related to other outcomes, such as having higher earnings, a better job or even greater satisfaction in life.”

He adds that although other European countries also classify girls more generously than boys, the reasons for this may differ from place to place and do not necessarily mirror Italy’s.

Study limitations include the use of grades awarded in the middle of the school year. These could be different from the students’ final grades and thus influenced the results.

Women are better at statistics than they think

More information:
Do teacher and class characteristics affect how girls and boys are evaluated ?, British Journal of Sociology of Education (2022). DOI: 10.1080 / 01425692.2022.2122942

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Citation: Why do teachers rate girls higher than boys? Italian researchers have the answer (2022, 18 October) retrieved on 18 October 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-teachers-girls-higher-boys-italian.html

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