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Gender effects in children's development and education

Bryce, T.G.K. and Blown, E.J. (2007) Gender effects in children's development and education. International Journal of Science Education, 29 (13). pp. 1655-1678. ISSN 0950-0693

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Abstract

This paper attempts to clarify several lines of research on gender in development and education, inter-relating findings from studies on intuitive/informal knowledge with those from research on achievements and attitudes in science. It acknowledges the declining proportions of male teachers world-wide and examination successes which indicate a reversal of educational disadvantage from female to male; as well as the recent evidence on the effects of the gender of teachers upon student success. An empirical contribution to the literature is offered, drawing from the gender-related findings from research on children's cosmologies in China and New Zealand with 346 boys and 340 girls (of whom 119 boys and 121 girls participated in the current study). The investigation focused on children's concepts of the motion and shape of the Earth through observational astronomy and gave children opportunities to express their ideas in several modalities. The in-depth interviews allowed children to share their meanings with gender differences becoming apparent (e.g. girls' superior ability to visually represent their cosmologies and boys' greater awareness of gravity). However, these differences were not universal across genders or cultures and marked similarities were apparent both in the content of children's responses and in their reasoning processes. By comparing boy/girl cosmological concept categories and by tracking their developmental trends by age, statistical evidence revealed the extent of the similarities within and across these diverse cultures. The findings reinforce those from the authors' knowledge restructuring and cultural mediation studies and provide support for the view that boys and girls have similar, holistic-rather-than-fragmented, cosmologies which have features in common across cultures and ethnic groups.