Implications of Gender Gaps in Education

Within the last couple of decades, it has become apparent that a male-favored gender gap exists in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This gap has gained much attention for its potentially detrimental effects on our national economy. While more women are now attending college, fewer women are choosing vocations in STEM fields. This could put the US further behind in technological advancements. The female-disadvantaged gender gap has received a resounding negative response from advocates of equal opportunity for both genders. A female-dominated gender gap in language arts, however, has received less focus. It is unclear whether this stems from “progressive” desires to shatter the glass ceiling that has historically plagued women or from a “traditional” subconscious bias that ascribes superior importance to historically male-dominated fields. Whatever the reasons, there is much evidence supporting the existence of both a male-favoring tendency in STEM and a female-favoring tendency in language arts. Are these socially-constructed problems or the result of an inherent preference due to human biological makeup? The answer to this question holds great implications for implementing curricula and teaching styles to best encourage male and female achievement in both areas. These two gender gaps are caused by the interaction of interdependent societal and biological influences. This suggests that the best approach to fostering growth for both genders is to build on current teaching methods to integrate spatial, tactile, and language elements while encouraging greater value placement on both subjects.

Various theories suggest sociological causation of the gender gap present in the STEM fields. Glenda Andrews and her associates in their article, “Sex Differences in Mathematics and Science Achievement: A Meta-Analysis of National Assessment of Educational Progress Assessments,” map much of the existing scholarship surrounding this particular gender gap. The authors cite Eagley and Wood’s social-role theory, which hypothesizes that psychological sex differences are the result of gender division among societal roles (Andrews et al., p. 2). This theory implies that societal roles foster “instrumental and achievement-oriented traits in men and expressive and communal-oriented traits in women” (Andrews et al., p. 2). Another key schema supporting societal contributions to this gender gap is that developed by S.L. Bem in 1981, which states that children develop an internal representation of behaviors and interests that fit each sex. In fact, children have demonstrated sex-typing of things as intrinsically masculine or feminine, according to a study done in 2004 by Martin and Ruble (Andrews et al., p. 2). This categorization would include school subjects and fields of occupation. Therefore, it is important to note that both theories reflect societal influence on each gender from a young age, which could give cause to the gender gaps in consideration. Furthermore, the authors of this meta-analysis explain that many experts argue that social and cultural factors that contribute to gender stereotyping offer greater influence than biological elements. Glenda Andrews and her associates, however, maintain that both make considerable contributions to the perceived gender gap in the STEM fields (Andrews et al., p. 3).

Andrews and her colleagues are not alone in their theory that both biological and social factors are intertwined in the causation of gender-typing. Michael Gurian, author of Boys and Girls Learn Differently, although he focuses decisively on the biological influences on gender learning, also explains possible historical causes of these biological differences. The fields of evolutionary psychology and biology span the realm of both biological and social reasons for various gender differences. These theories are concerned with explaining how the human brain has developed throughout history due to the necessary division of gender-typed roles. According to experts in the field of evolutionary psychology, cited by Gurian, the argument is that the human brain has adapted to fit the types of jobs it historically has been expected to perform. For instance, before the agricultural revolution approximately ten thousand years ago, humans were hunter-gatherers. Men were in charge of hunting and protecting, usually in large groups. This would give rise to greater spatial skills, aggression, and a need to rely on hierarchical dominance structures. Women were gatherers who worked in smaller groups and were responsible for childcare. These tasks encouraged greater verbal skills and development of bonding processes for small groups and children (Gurian, p. 38-39). As the world’s population has grown, greater levels of testosterone are being seen in both men and women as there is more competition for resources. Various hormonal differences may be triggered by population growth; the brain strives to develop so that individuals and societies can be more ready for competition in aggression and bonding. This means that the amounts of both androgynous and more gender-different children are increasing (Gurian, p. 39-40). This further complicates gender gap causation due to changes in hormonal factors, and may suggest that biological and social bases only together can explain gender gaps. A wealth of evidence demonstrates educational gender disparities still exist. Because both slight hormonal changes and more modernized societal attitudes have developed, the pervasiveness of educational gender gaps cannot be attributed to only one of these determinants; instead, both must make contributions in order for gender tendencies to effectively persist. This trend has implications for curricula development as well because it provides increased challenges for educators in striving to best reach each individual.

It is not only the male-dominated gender gap in the STEM fields that necessitates searching for multiple sources of causation. Alexander R. Pagnani and his associates detail theoretical biological and societal sources of the perceived gender gap in language arts. This gender gap also seems to be historically present, at least since the time of John Locke, who wrote public letters detailing his concerns that males were falling behind in writing ability (Pagnani, p. 2). This would suggest a biological causation of this gender gap, since it has not lessened with a progression of technological advances and better understanding of male psychology. In addition, it has been evidenced that boys are slower to develop verbally when compared to girls (Pagnani, p. 3), also evidencing biological contribution. This same observation is made by Gurian (Gurian, p. 20). On the other hand, there are theories suggesting that literacy activities are viewed as intrinsically feminine in nature because they do not facilitate boys being tough and active, when this is what society expects them to be (Pagnani, p. 3). Furthermore, it has been evidenced in various research studies that males adhere more to gender stereotyping than girls, and are more likely to want to conform to hegemonic masculine identity (Pagnani, p. 3). This suggests a greater societal influence on male perception of reading and writing.

Andrews and her associates in their meta-analysis contribute arguments from the biological perspective, mostly provided by evidence from sex hormone research and evolutionary psychology. These same concepts are supported in greater detail by Michael Gurian.Gurian details how the brain is structurally different in males and females, and how this can have implications for the ways in which both genders learn best. One element that makes a difference in the formation of the brain is the role of sex hormones. Estrogen, found to a greater extent in girls, can often lead to “lower aggression, competitiveness, self-assertion, and self-reliance” (Gurian, p. 21). This could result in females considering themselves less capable in more difficult or competitive areas, including mathematics. On the other hand, testosterone, which occurs in higher concentrations in male brains, leads to aggressiveness and competitiveness (Gurian, p. 24). This would very clearly have the opposite effect on performance and preference in school subjects than estrogen in females. Another interesting hormonal difference between males and females is that the female brain tends to have more functionally present oxytocin, which is a hormone that is associated with social bonding. In other words, this hormone encourages the development and maintenance of relationships, which is evident in females’ tendency to be more motivated by wanting to please parents, peers, and their teachers (Gurian, p. 23). This could contribute to the general population pattern of females performing higher academically overall than male students.

Structurally, there are many differences between male and female brains that can contribute to both gender gaps in question. The earlier development of the arcuate fasciculus, a bundle of nerve fibers in the central nervous system, coupled with the more highly active Broca’s area, generally the motor area for speech, in the female brain contributes to tendencies of improved verbal communication skills starting earlier (Gurian, p. 20). In addition, the earlier maturation of and tendency for greater blood flow in the female frontal lobe, which contributes to thought, emotion, and speech, often encourages further improved verbal communication skills and discourages risk taking in girls (Gurian, p. 22). This results in females generally being more predisposed to language arts than males. Several portions of the brain contribute to greater capacity in females for multi-tasking and increased memory storage. One such area is the cerebral cortex, which interprets sensory impulses and promotes more advanced intellectual functions and memory through neuron transmissions. Females tend to have more connections between these neurons as well as greater blood flow in the cerebral cortex, which can contribute to increased processing speed in the female brain to make multi-tasking and transitions within the classroom easier for females (Gurian, p. 21). The hippocampus, whose functions are crucial for learning to have meaning and for retention, is larger with greater number and speed of neuron transmissions in female brains and contributes to increased memory storage in females (Gurian, p. 22). The male brain is set apart by the larger cerebellum coupled with higher levels of spinal fluid. Because the cerebellum integrates and controls coordination, sensory perception, and motor skills, this makes males more likely to send messages between the brain and body more quickly with less impulse control (Gurian, p. 20). This potentially makes males more active within the classroom, which could initially be judged a behavioral problem if a female-centered instructional model is in place. It should be noted that Gurian focuses, unlike many of his colleagues, on the disadvantage male students face, which could explain bias for why there is less explanation in his work of how these biological differences can negatively affect females. Nevertheless, the effects of these hormonal and structural differences can have great implications for identifying areas for improved classroom environment to close gender gaps.

In addition, within the brain there are structural differences that result in differences in emotive processing. For example, the corpus callosum, which connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain, is typically denser with more neural connections between the two hemispheres in a female brain. This means that females can usually process information more quickly between the two hemispheres, which better connects the emotion processing and language centers (Gurian, p. 21). In addition, PET scans and MRIs have begun to reveal that when females are confronted with emotional information, brain activity quickly moves into the upper four lobes of the brain, where more thought processing occurs (Gurian, p. 32). This means that emotions are more linked directly to learning for females, and often leads to greater verbal processing of emotions. However, this can also result in an emotional overload that hinders learning. Contrarily, male brains tend to respond to emotive stimulus by moving into the lower parts of the brain, making males more withdrawn or aggressive (Gurian, p. 32). This can negatively affect learning since the emotionally stimulated male brain is more likely to be active in the lower regions, where learning is not taking place, and to take more time to process these emotions, which effectively takes time away from learning. However, there is evidence in motivational studies in education that suggest females suffer within emotionally-taxing subjects and activities, including those related to STEM fields. There is contrasting evidence that males may suffer within language arts classroom settings because of the greater need for processing and interpreting emotive information.

Motivation, including within emotions, offers immense insight into why males and females are performing higher in different academic disciplines. Author M. Kay Alderman in the second edition of Motivation for Achievement writes that motivation is tied strongly to beliefs about ability and effort. Cultural expectations that success in school is dependent on one’s “ability to achieve competitively,” can actually work to devalue student’s sense of self-worth. Failure is generally seen as due to a lack of ability (Alderman, p. 5). Students are then expected to expend more effort to make up for this difference. However, to protect a sense of self-worth, students may expend less effort or set unreasonable goals so they can give reasons other than a lack of ability for failure (Alderman, p. 5). In this way, students’ self-worth and self-efficacy are negatively influenced by a flawed perception of the value of ability, which also works to devalue effort. Alderman explains that girls are often more likely to attribute success to external factors, such as luck, and failures to lack of ability, though their achievement is often higher. Boys, on the other hand, tend to over-estimate their performance (Alderman, p. 41). The interrelated association of motivational factors, value placement, and self-efficacy beliefs cannot be ignored in structuring school curricula.

Glenda Andrews and her associates, as referenced previously, compile a meta-analysis of mathematics and science data given for 1990-2011 by the National Assessment of Educational Data. The researchers detail the reliability of this method of assessment to avoid bias. However, these assessments rely heavily on multiple choice questions, which Gurian explains may also be tailored to male decisiveness. This could, therefore, inadvertently widen this perceived gap. The authors have found that there is a definite gender gap in math and science favoring males. This was evidenced by small mean differences between male and female students in math and science aptitude and achievement, which persisted throughout the twenty-two years of data collection (Andrews et al., p. 8). This could go against social theories, since considerable progress has been made in including women in the workforce, while efforts made over the last two decades to encourage females in STEM fields would appear less successful (Andrews et al., p. 9). The authors found that the gap becomes more pronounced as children age, which supports biological theories that around the time of puberty, sex hormones begin to disadvantage female students in math and science. There are two startling results of this study. Firstly, there is more variance in math and science achievement among males, though the ratio of male to female high achievers in STEM is over 2:1 (Andrews et al., p. 10). Teaching methods geared more to female-style learning could explain the wide variance in levels of male achievement. By contrast, there was little or no gap displayed in the life sciences (as opposed to the physical sciences), possibly evidencing a difference in “patterns of interest and motivation toward people-oriented fields,” “rather than indicating any inherent lack of ability” (Andrews et al., p. 10). This proposition is accredited by general theories of motivation detailed in M. Kay Alderman’s Motivation for Achievement (Alderman, p. 41). Because students, particularly females, may have a flawed understanding of their own ability, failure in physical sciences and math due at least partially to a lack of motivation could serve to maintain the STEM gender gap.

Various case studies corroborate the importance of motivation and perception of self-efficacy in both the STEM and language arts gaps. One such study conducted by Anna-Lena Dicke and her associates focused on differences in levels of motivational facets between genders in regard to learning math. Through survey collection and analysis, the researchers were able to deconstruct types of motivational factors into facets that offered greater insight into possible aspects of causation behind gender gaps in STEM subjects. Their survey results indicate that males place more intrinsic value on math and generally consider it more important for their general future or their future careers (Dicke et al., p. 10). Females, through their responses to statements such as “I’d rather not do math, because it only worries me,” demonstrated a greater association of emotional cost and effort required to learning math (Dicke et al., p. 6, 10). This emotional cost is often perceived as anxiety. Given Gurian’s research (Gurian, p. 32) on the link between emotion and learning for females and the Dicke study evidence, it seems clear that less motivational values and greater negative emotive processing by females regarding math plays an important role in sustaining the gender gap in STEM. This data also correlates with another study conducted by Marissa Swaim Griggs and her associates that surveyed students to gauge relationships between anxiety, self-efficacy, and performance in math and science for fifth graders. When anxiety was controlled, boys and girls generally believed themselves equally efficacious in math and science (Grigg et al., p. 10). However, because girls are often more anxious than boys regarding math and science, this indicates female anxiety could partially account for the gap existing in perceived self-efficacy between the genders in STEM. It should be noted that the Griggs study particularly considered responsive classrooms (RC) that are generally more interactive and allow students some choice in the learning, which could have caused a lesser gap in self-efficacy perception when anxiety was controlled than would have occurred in traditional learning environments.

Motivation and self-efficacy play an important role in determining not only performance, but also our choices. In one longitudinal study following high schoolers through college to post-secondary career choices, Jiesi Guo and his colleagues found that “math self-concept, intrinsic value, and utility value positively predicted math course selection in high school,” and math intrinsic and utility values were directly related to predicting selection of a STEM major (Guo, p. 8). This shows the importance of encouraging greater motivational and value beliefs in each gender for the corresponding subject for which they are at a greater disadvantage. Previous math and science achievement was shown to predict higher expectancy and value measures, whereas greater reading achievement was “negatively associated with math motivational beliefs” (Guo, p. 7). However, this correlation does not at all imply causation. Researchers found that girls were more likely to have high achievement in reading, demonstrating that this association was at least partially due to the fact that the females were lacking in positive motivation for mathematics. Alternatively, boys were shown to have higher achievement in and motivational beliefs about math and science, and were thereby more likely to choose a STEM major. One interesting discovery in this study was that females were more likely to have obtained tertiary entrance rank, which is a measurement of high-stakes achievement used in this study, and to gain entrance to university (Guo 8). This again demonstrates that females are more likely, and perhaps more motivated, to achieve higher overall academically than males. A similar observation was made in the Anna-Lena Dicke study, where the only facet for which girls indicated math was of greater importance than boys did was for earning good grades. This generally suggests that females place more weight on, and are thereby motivated to a greater extent by, performing well in school than males (Dicke et al., p. 10). This seems to indicate that, as discussed earlier, hormonal differences do encourage females’ tendency to be more motivated by wanting to please parents, peers, and their teachers (Gurian, p. 23).

Motivational differences also exist among male students that appear to hinder learning and achievement in language arts subjects. The 2011 Nation’s Report Card, which outlines the National Assessment of Educational Progress’s results for that year in fourth and eighth grades, effectively demonstrates an apparent gender gap in reading comprehension. Female students scored an average of seven points higher than boys on the reading comprehension assessment (“The Nation’s…”, p. 16). Though average scores have increased for both genders between 1992 and 2011, the gender gap has changed very little, especially between 2009 and 2011 (“The Nation’s…”, p. 16). One study conducted by Stephanie Al Otaiba and her colleagues sheds some light on the language arts gender gap. The researchers examined the gender gap in writing in light of factors typically used to score writing assessments and indicator factors that help predict student success in writing. Over four hundred second and third graders were tested, many of which were in a lower income bracket and of a racial minority. This may provide some bias, though it seems to evidence the prevalence of this phenomenon.

In this particular study, the researchers found that, on average, boy’s, writing quality scored 0.39 standard deviations less than girls. Similarly, boys scored 0.46 standard deviations lower for writing productivity and 0.37 standard deviations lower for curriculum-based measurement writing than girls (Al Otaiba et al., p. 12). This effectively demonstrates that a gender gap exists at multiple levels of writing skill proficiency. In addition to these facets of writing skills, the researchers accounted for various language and cognitive predictors including oral skills, reading, spelling, story copying, letter naming, and attention (Al Otaiba et al., p. 11). When these predictors were taken into consideration, the differences between genders were reduced by a quarter to a third (Al Otaiba et al., p. 12). This shows that the gender gap was explained partly by differences in these predictors, but that they are not the extent of causation (Al Otaiba et al., p. 12). One possible contributing factor to explain why controlling for language and cognitive predictors does not eliminate the language arts gender gap is that boys tend to have lower perception of writing’s usefulness and express less satisfaction in completion of writing activities (Al Otaiba et al., p. 4). As discussed within previous studies, less self-efficacy and motivational values correspond to a lower level of proficiency within a subject. Attention, however, is one predictor that may really influence reading and writing gender gaps. Boys are much more likely than girls to be diagnosed with attention problems, as explained in both this study and Gurian’s book (Al Otaiba et al., p. 12). This could prove a greater challenge in reading and writing for males because both activities are more sedentary, which speaks to possible avenues for language arts curriculum improvement.

With evidence piling up to suggest the complicated nature of the causation of gender gaps in education and the clear influence motivational values contribute to maintain them, it is obvious that traditional curricula and teaching styles may not be cutting it for many students. In addition to general theories, Andrews and the other authors of the math and science meta-analysis reference particular studies and discuss possible psychosocial parent and teacher behaviors that could influence gender stereotyping in math and science. For instance, it has been shown that boys generally report being involved in more extracurricular activities or playing with more toys that encourage quantitative, spatial thinking, which improves science and math skills (Andrews et al., p. 10). In addition, parents are recorded as explaining mathematical and scientific ideas to boys more often than girls (Andrews et al., p. 10). There is a possibility of classroom environments hindering female development of proficiency in math, as teachers are likely to have more direct contact with male students. Similarly, in science classes, it has been demonstrated that teachers are often more likely to call on male students to answer questions or perform demonstrations (Andrews et al., p. 10). It is possible that this contributes to lower self-confidence and interest in STEM fields for girls. In light of the greater likelihood of males to suffer from attention problems and to be more active, however, it is quite possible that teachers appear to favor male students in an effort to correct perceived behavioral problems. This theory is evidenced both in Michael Gurian’s Boys and Girls Learn Differently (Gurian, p. 20) and in the Al Otaiba study (Al Otaiba et al., p. 12). This means that current teaching methods are not developmentally stimulating for male students, which also causes a disadvantage to female students. This could indicate necessity for greater focus on improving teaching methods to create a more encouraging environment for male learning.

The greater variance among males even in mathematics demonstrated in the meta-analysis compiled by Glenda Andrews and her research partners also suggests current instructional methods could be improved to more effectively help male students learn (Andrews et al., p. 10). Michael Gurian is a proponent for improved teaching strategies in a female-centered learning environment to effectively encourage male learning. Yet, most of the strategies he suggests are interdisciplinary, meaning that those that work for boys in language arts also can be utilized for girls in mathematics and science (Gurian, p. 104). Gurian advocates for this shift in teaching styles and curricula to be progressive, starting in preschool and moving through secondary education. In addition, most of these strategies transcend grade levels.

Specifically, Gurian supports integrating teaching math and spatial concepts with literacy activities (Gurian, p. 105). For example, utilizing blocks with characters in a kindergarten class can benefit both genders. Males can be familiarized with letters while playing with a spatial toy, and females will be encouraged to learn spatially as they are made more comfortable with the presence of letters (Gurian, p. 105). In teaching mathematics, the use of physical objects and manipulatives has proven to help females, who biologically are typically less likely to be able to comprehend spatial concepts on a two-dimensional blackboard, understand the spatial concepts involved (Gurian, p. 187). Externalizing math thought processes through writing, verbalizing, or diagramming is also encouraged to facilitate understanding spatial concepts for mathematics and science (Gurian, p. 185). These teaching approaches could also function as literacy-building strategies for males integrated within math and science.

Gurian advocates showcasing females in STEM (Gurian, p. 183, 248) and providing strong female role models within language arts activities (Gurian, p. 184). . A study performed by Brigitte Maria Brisson and her colleagues testing relevance interventions in terms of the gender gap in mathematics for high school students indicates the effectiveness of all three Gurian strategies within STEM subjects. The study also stressed the importance of motivational factors in increased proficiency in educational pursuits. Two strategies, the “quotation” and “text” interventions, both contained a presentation that educated on the “importance of effort and self-concept for math achievement” as well as provided examples in education and female- and male-typed careers for the utility of math (Brisson, p. 5). The quotation intervention involved reading interview quotes from young adults sharing personal examples of math’s usefulness and evaluating them. The text intervention asked students to write an essay on arguments for math’s personal relevance to their current and future lives. Each intervention group also kept a homework diary (Brisson, p. 5). These interventions were designed to provide personal relevance for mathematics utility. The text condition specifically was aimed at encouraging personal connections and reflection, while the quotation condition endeavored to initiate this relevance through role models (Brisson, p. 3). Female students reported having lower motivational beliefs before the intervention (Brisson, p. 9). The quotation intervention had greater effect on students’ utility and intrinsic values for math, whereas the text intervention only had significantly positive effects on utility value ((Brisson, p. 8). Both interventions had greater positive effect on females’ utility and intrinsic values, while the text condition actually led to a marginally significant negative impact on males’ intrinsic value of math (Brisson, p. 10).

There are various interrelated possibilities for why these interventions were successful for female students. Firstly, the interventions were performed by female doctorate students. Same-gender role models within STEM fields have been shown to act as a buffer against gender stereotyping and encourage self-efficacy, corroborating Gurian’s role model theory within STEM (Brisson, p. 12). In addition, the interventions provided relevant examples in historically female-typed careers rather than just focusing on male-typed jobs. This aspect, which would have showcased females in STEM, would indicate legitimacy of the first of Gurian’s strategies. Another possibility is that the activity of writing may have appealed to females, which may have influenced how conscientiously they worked on the assignment, also evidencing the success of integrating literacy activities in STEM for female students’ improvement (Brisson, p. 12). This could also have contributed to the negative effect on the text intervention on boys’ intrinsic value of math. This suggests that Gurian’s insistence on modification of curricula starting in earlier grades and continuing through high school is well-founded. Also indicating the necessity for an earlier approach is the fact that rather than reducing the gender gap in mathematics, these relevance interventions seemed to prevent the widening of it, evidenced by females in the control group suffering more negative development (Brisson, p. 12).

In addition to supporting competition in the classroom to motivate males in particular, Gurian advocates teaching methods that incorporate more movement and modalities, such as drawing, within literacy activities. Mary J. Franco and Kathleen Unrath’s description of their own successes in fostering writing proficiency and value motivation in K-5 male students through visual thinking strategies sheds some light on these ideas. Influenced by the work of scholar R. Fletcher, they worked within an exclusively boys’ writing club while integrating art teaching techniques. Boys’ writing clubs have previously been endorsed as “supportive physical and emotional spaces where boys’ preferred topics, kinesthetic learning styles, and unique humor might be shared, understood, and respected by peers” (Franco et al., p. 3). This particular strategy followed a transmediational chain of viewing or other exposure to art of some form, open discussion of the piece, drawing, and then writing (Franco et al., p. 4). The authors, though there was no quantitative measurement following the implementation of this method, witnessed the increased enthusiasm of the boys in hand raising and waving in response to visual thinking strategies questions (Franco et al., p. 4). While far from conclusive, this five-semester-long study presents a valid argument for a more kinesthetic and interdisciplinary approach to teaching language arts for boys at younger ages, and emphasizes the practicality of a safe space for boys to authentically write for their own interests.

For both STEM and language arts teaching, Gurian encourages self-directed learning (Gurian, p. 113). The success of the boys’ writing club study indicates the importance of this, as does the role of choice in science with the responsive classrooms that provided the framework for the Griggs study. With this in mind, and considering the evidence provided by Alexander R. Pagnani in “Gifted Male Readers: Current Understandings and Suggestions for Future Research” that even male gifted readers are achieving at lower levels in some respects than female gifted readers, the types of books available or required through public school is of concern (Pagnani, p. 1). It has been proposed that the types of books traditionally assigned in the American school system are emotionally heavy, which would appeal less to boys (Pagnani, p. 3). Rather, males are more likely to read nonfiction and approach fictional books with a how-to lens, and prefer novels filled with action, heroes, violence, and sex, as opposed to the character-driven classics that girls tend to favor (Pagnani, p. 3). Perhaps society and the education system could better appeal to males by redefining what constitutes literature. Males, though they are less likely to complete reading as many books as their female peers, are more likely to read video gaming handbooks, online sources, and Sports Illustrated magazines than are girls. This also means that males could be under-represented by previous studies as to how much they read (Pagnani, p. 3).

In conclusion, the complicated nature of STEM and language arts gender gaps in education indicate causation through an interplay of societal and biological influences, including those of historical adaptive significance. Motivational trends provide a basis for linking these causative factors with intervention strategies for fostering growth for both genders in both areas of interest. This can best be accomplished through longitudinal instructional methods that integrate spatial, tactile, and language elements while encouraging greater value placement on both subjects. While gender tendencies can provide much indication for how to structure teaching strategies, the individual remains the primary focus of education. As such, self-directed learning is one method to effectively address individual improvement in various subjects.


Works Cited

Alderman, M. Kay. Motivation for Achievement: Possibilities for Teaching and Learning. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2004. Print.

Al Otaiba, Stephanie, Brandy Gatlin, Young-Suk Kim, and Jeanne Wanzek. “Toward an Understanding of Dimensions, Predictors, and the Gender Gap.” Journal of Educational Psychology. 107.1 (2015): 79 – 95. PsycARTICLES. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.

Andrews, Glenda, David L. Neumann, and David Reilly. “Sex Differences in Mathematics and Science Achievement: A Meta-Analysis of National Assessment of Educational Progress Assessments.” Journal of Educational Psychology. 107.3 (2015): 645 – 662. Ebscohost. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.

Brisson, Maria Brigitte, Anna-Lena Dicke, Barbara Flunger, Hanna Gaspard, Isabelle Häfner, Benjamin Nagengast, and Ulrich Trautwein. “Fostering Adolescents’ Value Beliefs for Mathematics with a Relevance Intervention in the Classroom.” Developmental Psychology 51.9 (2015): 1226 – 1240. Ebscohost. Web. 19 Oct. 2015.

Dicke, Anna-Lena, Barbara Flunger, Hanna Gaspard, Isabelle Häfner, Benjamin Nagengast, Brigitte Schreier, and Ulrich Trautwein. “More Value through Greater Differentiation: Gender Differences in Value Beliefs about Math.” Journal of Education Psychology. 107.3 (2014): 663 – 677. PsycARTICLES. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.

Franco, Mary J. and Kathleen Unrath. “The Art of Engaging Young Men as Writers.” Art Education. 68.3 (May 2015): 26 – 31. ERIC. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Griggs, Marissa Swaim, Eileen G. Merritt, Sara E. Rimm-Kaufman, and Christine L. Patton. “The Responsive Classroom Approach and Fifth Grade Students’ Math and Science Anxiety and Self-Efficacy.” School Psychology Quarterly. 28.4 (2013): 360 – 373. PsycARTICLES. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.

Guo, Jiesi, Herbert W. Marsh, Alexandre J. S. Morin, and Philip D. Parker. “Achievement, Motivation, and Educational Choices: A Longitudinal Study of Expectancy and Value Using a Multiplicative Perspective.” Developmental Psychology 51.8 (2015): 1163 – 1176. PsycARTICLES. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.

Gurian, Michael and Kathy Stevens. Boys and Girls Learn Differently. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.

Pagnani, Alexander R. “Gifted Male Readers: Current Understandings and Suggestions for Future Research.” Roeper Review. 35.1 (2013): 27 – 35. ERIC. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

“The Nation’s Report Card: Reading 2011.” National Center for Education Statistics. (2011): 1 – 102. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.


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