Handbook of Writing Research

By Charles A. MacArthur; Steve Graham et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 21
Influence of Gender on Writing Development

Shelley Peterson

Studies of the influence of gender on student writing have been motivated by competing concerns. Some researchers have highlighted the silencing of female voices and the privileging of masculine writing styles in peer audience and teacher feedback on students' classroom writing. In contrast, other researchers, concerned about gender disparities privileging girls in the scores of largescale writing tests, have highlighted the ways in which students and teachers constructed masculine identities of resistance to authority and lack of writing competence.

In all cases, researchers have perceived writing as one of the ways in which children learn the meanings of their culture, exploring and constructing their respective gender roles through and in their writing. As such, these researchers have viewed writing as a social practice that shapes and is shaped by gender. To study the influence of gender on writing development, many researchers have considered the local and the wider social and political contexts within which students were writing. They have examined the social meanings taken up by girls and boys in their construction of gender in their classroom writing, and have attempted to understand the ways in which classroom writing contributed to and challenged stereotypical gender dualities.

Research in the field of gender and writing development has clustered around several themes, which are used to organize this review: Much of the research has highlighted developmental gender patterns in characterization and in the themes and linguistic features of students' writing. Other studies have examined students' self-perceptions and teachers' views of girls' and boys' relative writing competencies. Research also examined the ideologies that shape girls' and boys' writing and writing behavior in terms of their use of writing for social purposes, and the dominance of singular gender models in classrooms. A final group of research studies has explored ways in which teachers can create spaces for students to write against traditional gender positions. In this chapter, the research studies are described in these five categories. In the final pages of the chapter, I summarize the major findings and discuss the implications for practice and further research.


Research Findings

Developmental Gender Patterns in Students' Writing and Writing Processes

Much of the research in the field of gender and writing has investigated differences between boys' and girls' writing from early childhood through adolescence. The research has been primarily quantitative, because researchers have created gender taxonomies to identify the presence of dualistic gender traits in the characters and relationships

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