Is there a gender gap in IT?

Previous studies have revealed gender differences in attitudes towards information technology (IT) literacy, with boys generally considering their IT literacy to be higher than that of girls. A new meta-analysis, published in Educational Research Review, tests whether the same gender differences can be seen in pupils’ actual performance on IT literacy tasks as measured by performance-based assessments.

In total, 46 effect sizes were extracted from 23 studies using a random-effects model. The main findings suggest that:

  • Girls perform better than boys on performance-based IT literacy assessments (ES= +0.13).
  • Gender differences in favour of girls are larger in primary schools (ES= +0.20) than in secondary schools (ES= +0.11).
  • The overall effect size is robust across several analysis conditions.
  • Overall, the gender differences in IT literacy are significant but small.

As these findings seem to contrast those obtained from previous meta-analyses that were based on self-reported IT literacy, researchers Fazilat Siddiq and Ronny Scherer conclude that the IT gender gap may not be as severe as it had been claimed to be.

Source: Is there a gender gap? A meta-analysis of the gender differences in students’ ICT literacy (June 2019), Educational Research Review, Volume 27

The effects of self-assessment

An article published in Educational Research Review examines the effects of self-assessment on self-regulated learning (SRL) and self-efficacy in four meta-analyses.

To understand the impact of pupils’ assessment of their own work, Ernesto Panadero and colleagues from Spain analysed 19 studies comprised of 2,305 pupils from primary schools to higher education. The meta-analyses only included studies published in English that contained empirical results of self-assessment interventions in relation to SRL and/or self-efficacy, had at least one control group, and had been peer-reviewed.

The findings indicated that:

  • Self-assessment had a positive effect on SRL strategies serving a positive self-regulatory function for pupils’ learning, such as meta-cognitive strategies (effect size= +0.23).
  • Self-assessment had a negative effect on “Negative SRL”, which is associated with negative emotions and stress and is thought to be adverse to pupils’ learning (effect size=-0.65).
  • Self-assessment was also positively associated with SRL even when SRL was measured qualitatively (effect size = +0.43).
  • Self-assessment had a positive effect on self-efficacy (effect size= +0.73), the effect being larger for girls.

The authors suggest that self-assessment is necessary for productive learning but note that the results have yet to identify the most effective self-assessment components (eg, monitoring, feedback, and revision) in fostering SRL strategies or self-efficacy.

Source: Effects of self-assessment on self-regulated learning and self-efficacy: Four meta-analyses (November 2017), Educational Research Review, Volume 22.

Evidence of disciplinary bias against sexual minority females

LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning) pupils are coming out at earlier ages and becoming more visible in schools, creating a need for research on their educational experiences and outcomes. Exclusionary bias studies, which look at the proportions of pupils suspended or expelled, have historically focused on the bias against pupils of colour, yet sexual minority pupils face similar risks.

Joel Mittleman of Princeton University introduced a new data source for research on sexual minority pupils: The Fragile Families and Childhood Wellbeing Study. It is comprised of data on 4,898 children born in 20 US cities between 1998 and 2000, and at baseline was representative of all births at this time in cities with more than 200,000 people. The recent Year 15 follow up includes information on sexual orientation. Dr Mittleman used this data to relate sexual orientation to educational experiences and outcomes. He found that compared to teenagers solely attracted to the opposite gender:

  • Same-sex attracted teenagers are 29% more likely to experience exclusionary discipline.
  • This risk is stratified by gender, increasing to 95% higher odds of discipline among females. Yet based on parent report, Mittleman attributes only 38% of these disciplinary actions to behavioural problems.

This unexplained gap in discipline raises a red flag indicating that homophobia in schools is not gender-neutral, and warrants further research into the treatment of sexual minority status females versus males.

Source: Sexual orientation and school discipline: New evidence from a population-based sample (January 2018), Educational Researcher, Volume: 47 issue: 3

Do young children favour boys over girls?

A new study published in American Psychologist looks at evidence of bias against women and girls for jobs or activities requiring intellectual ability.

Andrei Cimpian conducted a series of three experiments to test for evidence of gender bias and its developmental roots. In the two initial experiments, more than 1,150 participants (mean age 35 years) were asked to refer individuals for a job. The results showed that participants were less likely to refer a woman when the job description mentioned intellectual ability (43.5% female referrals) than when it did not (50.8%).

In the third experiment, the researchers looked at whether young children favour boys over girls for intellectually challenging activities. Children ages five to seven (n= 192) were recruited from a small mid-western city in the US, and taught how to play a team game. Half of the children were told that the game was for “really, really smart” children, the other half were not. Children were then asked to select three teammates from among six children (three boys and three girls) they did not know.

Initially, the children selected teammates of the same gender as themselves (so, girls chose the other girls, and boys chose the other boys), but by the third selection round they became less likely to select girls as teammates for the “smart” game (37.6% girls selected) than for the control game (53.4%). Girls were less likely to select other girls as teammates across selection rounds, particularly for the “smart” game.

Source: Evidence of bias against girls and women in contexts that emphasize intellectual ability (December 2018), American Psychologist 73(9)

Children who enjoy reading over three years ahead in the classroom

Research published by the National Literacy Trust highlights the link between enjoyment of reading and achievement, with children who enjoy reading more likely to do better at reading – over three years ahead in the classroom – of their peers who don’t enjoy it.

The findings are based on data from 42,406 children aged 8 to 18 who participated in a National Literacy Trust survey at the end of 2016. At age 10, children who enjoy reading have a reading age 1.3 years higher than their peers who don’t enjoy reading, rising to 2.1 years for 12-year-olds. At age 14, children who enjoy reading have an average reading age of 15.3 years, while those who don’t enjoy reading have an average reading age of just 12 years, a difference of 3.3 years.

The survey also indicates that three-quarters (78%) of UK primary school children enjoy reading, with girls more likely to enjoy reading than boys. Overall, 64.9% of girls enjoying reading either very much or quite a lot compared with 52.4% of boys, and this gap increases with age. At ages 8 to 11, 82.8% of girls and 72.4% of boys said they enjoyed reading. By ages 14 to 16, this figure has dropped to 53.3% of girls and 35.7% of boys reporting that they enjoy reading.

Source: Celebrating reading for enjoyment: findings from our annual literacy survey 2016 (June 2017), National Literacy Trust

Gender stereotypes about intelligence begin early

Girls as young as six years old associate high-level academic ability with men more than women, according to a report published in the journal Science. The study also found that although girls aged five to seven were more likely than boys to associate their own gender with good grades, they did not link these achievements to innate abilities of “brilliance”.

Lin Bian and colleagues carried out a number of tests with children, half of whom were girls, to test the influence of gender stereotypes on children’s ideas of intellectual ability. In the first test, boys and girls aged five, six, and seven were read a story about a highly intelligent person and then asked to guess the person’s gender. Next, they were shown pictures of pairs of adults, some same-sex, some opposite sex, and asked to pick which they thought were highly intelligent. Finally, the children were asked to match objects and traits, such as “being smart”, to pictures of men and women.

The results revealed that at age five, girls are just as likely as boys to associate intelligence with their own gender. However, by ages six and seven, girls were less likely than boys to make this association, with girls identifying their own gender as “really, really smart” 48% of the time compared to 65% of the time for boys.

Source: Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children’s interests (January 2017), Science Vol. 335 (6323) pp.389-391