The impact of children's gender on the identification of learning difficulties by primary school teachers
More boys than girls are consistently identified as having learning difficulties. This imbalance is longstanding but has only recently been problematised. The reasons for the imbalance are likely to be complex. This research investigated the possible existence of gender bias in the judgements and expectations of primary school teachers regarding girls and boys described as having learning difficulties. The research was undertaken in two phases. In the first a sample of primary teachers were asked to identify children in their classes whom they thought had learning difficulties; 15 girls and 49 boys were identified by 17 teachers; thus, confirming the gender imbalance. The teachers' views regarding these children’s difficulties were elicited by means of a questionnaire. In the second phase a different sample of teachers were asked their views regarding girls and boys with learning difficulties described in a series of five vignettes. The vignettes covered a range of learning difficulties. Each vignette was adjusted for pupil gender. The teachers' views about the children's difficulties were elicited by means of a questionnaire similar to that used in the first phase. Fifty-two teachers completed questionnaires, providing responses regarding 206 vignettes covering male and female versions of the five problem areas. Over the two phases it was evident that whilst there was a good deal of overlap between the teachers' views of girls and boys with learning difficulties, many areas of difference in perception of the problem and expectation were evident. The pattern of differential interpretation varied according to the nature of the learning difficulty. In addition it was evident that with regard to academic learning, the prognosis for the girls was seen to be less good than for the boys and that there was a higher level of expectation of behavioural difficulties for the boys. It can therefore be concluded that gender bias is evident in the judgements made about children's learning difficulties by at least some teachers.