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Title: Understanding boys' attitudes to writing : influences of gender and socio-economic stereotyping
Author: Edwards, Gillian Denise
ISNI:       0000 0004 5350 2741
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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Writing is an important way of expressing one’s thoughts and communicating ideas and views to others, but for the last two decades boys have underachieved in writing in comparison to girls. Although much has been written in the field of gender in relation to children’s differential achievement in literacy, less has been written about the combined influences of gender and socio economic factors. In this study I sought to better understand the influence of gender and socio-economic factors in the way boys are perceived by their teachers, and the influence of this on the boys’ view of themselves as writers. In order to gather data from children, learning in schools where they were drawn from different socio-economic backgrounds, and to explore changes over time, I conducted my study over a three-year period in three primary schools in a large urban area in London with high levels of deprivation. I interviewed the same small groups of boys annually as they progressed from Y4 to Y6 in their primary schools and interviewed their teachers. My findings have shown that the boys’ classroom teachers had a significant influence on the way they viewed themselves as writers and their response to writing in their classrooms. In classrooms where teachers viewed boys as a gendered group, rather than as individuals, the boys harboured strong feelings of inequity and perceptions that girls outperformed boys in writing, and this became more acute where there was little or no change in their circumstances as they progressed from Y4 to Y6. Where teachers also held a deficit view of the language the boys spoke at home, they did not encourage the boys’ families to participate in their literacy learning and the boys did not develop the habit of writing at home and school. In these conditions, the boys had low self-belief and had difficulty starting and sustaining their writing. However, this situation was not static for one group of boys, whose Y5 and Y6 teachers had more enlightened views of the boys and adopted a more holistic approach to the teaching of writing, central to which was a culture of dialogue where they consulted with the boys to identify their issues and explore their preferences, collaborated with their colleagues to reflect on and resolve issues in their literacy teaching and communicated with the boys’ families to encourage them to fully participate in their boys’ literacy learning at home. In these conditions, the boys thought they had equal opportunities to do well in their writing, had strong self-belief and showed greater commitment to their writing tasks in the classroom. My study has highlighted the factors that contribute to the conditions that either trap the boys in a downward learning spiral or promote their learning in an upward spiral. I identify the central importance of the classroom teacher in creating a classroom climate where boys have a sense of equity, where they feel valued and are trusted to have autonomy over their writing, such as through choice of genre, collaborative writing with their peers or use of computers for writing. I assert the importance of a school culture where teachers are able to collaborate, critically reflect on and share their literacy practice, and the need for family involvement in children’s learning to be a priority in the school literacy policy, of most significance for schools serving children from mainly disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Most importantly, my findings have shown the significance of nurturing the boys’ self-belief and their sense of identity as writers.
Supervisor: Abbott, Christopher David; Jones, Jane Yelka Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available