Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

Motivating Boys and Motivating Girls: Does Teacher Gender Really Make a Difference?

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

Motivating Boys and Motivating Girls: Does Teacher Gender Really Make a Difference?

Article excerpt

We explore the impact of student gender, teacher gender, and their interaction on academic motivation and engagement for 964 junior and middle high school students. According to the gender-stereotypic model, boys fare better academically in classes taught by males and girls fare better in classes taught by females. The gender-invariant model suggests that the academic motivation and engagement of boys and girls is the same for men and women teachers. We also examine the relative contribution of student-, class-, and school-level factors, finding that most variation was at the individual student level. Of the statistically significant main effects for gender, most favoured girls. In support of the gender-invariant model, academic motivation and engagement does not significantly vary as a function of their teacher's gender, and in terms of academic motivation and engagement, boys do not fare any better with male teachers than female teachers.

Introduction

Do boys fare best in classes taught by male teachers? Do girls fare best in classes taught by female teachers? In recent years, there has been considerable popular debate around these questions. A recent media release by the Attorney General's Department reported, 'The Government is extremely concerned about the decreasing number of male teachers and male role models, particularly in primary schools and the possible effect on learning and development of both boys and gifts in schools' (Ruddock, 2004). An Australian Labor Party (2004, p. 14) policy document leading up to the 2004 federal election stated: 'now, more than ever, young boys need contact with men who can offer positive role models and mentor them in the right direction ... Labor wants to see many more male teachers teaching and making a difference to the lives of young boys in our schools'. There have also been a number of reviews commissioned by government (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training, 2002; Lingard, Martino, Mills, & Bahr, 2002; Martin, 2002).

The present study seeks to address this debate by specifically examining the impact of student gender (the term 'gender' rather than the term 'sex' is used throughout the article) as a function of teacher gender on academic motivation and engagement. Essentially, it assesses two competing models. The first model can be considered a gender-stereotypic model which suggests that boys fare better in classes taught by males and girls fare better in classes taught by females, extended perhaps by the gender intensification principal suggesting that gender-role stereotypes becomes increasingly important with age. The second model can be considered a gender-invariant model which suggests that the motivation and engagement of boys and girls does not significantly vary as a function of their teacher's gender.

Over the past two decades there has been a great deal of research investigating student motivation and engagement. Most of this research (but with important exceptions--Roeser, Eccles, & Sameroff, 2000) is conducted on the assumption that motivation is primarily a student-level construct and does not account for the fact that there is also variation at other levels such as at the class and school levels. To date, it appears that most of the multilevel research has been directed towards academic achievement. In terms of academic achievement, there is existing evidence that a good proportion of the variance is explained at the student and class levels (Hill & Rowe, 1996; Rowe & Rowe, 2002).

To complement the existing body of research into the multilevel nature of achievement, the present study applies multilevel statistical procedures to determine the relative contribution of student, class, and school factors in boys' and girls' academic motivation and engagement and, in the same model, determine the relative contribution of student gender and teacher gender across junior and middle high school classes. …

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