Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Teacher, School, Present, Schedule, Attention, Pupil, Observation, Men

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2020/09/09


We live in a gendered and coed global world. Girls, boys, women and men go to schoolwork and live together. In our global society gender develops as women and men interact throughout their live. Gender influences how we think, work, learn and interact with others. Gender is a critical aspect in the growth and development of children and adolescents. The school system plays an important role in establishing and maintaining gender differences. Textbooks, technology and teaching styles perpetuate the gender difference.
In recent years, there has been a lot of interest in the idea that teachers react differently to girls and boys in their classes. For example, David Thomas states in his essay, The Mind of Man, that recent surveys indicate, female teachers tends to praise girls more than boys and often criticized boys’ behavior negatively. He states that female teachers tend to find boys too aggressive and too noisy. Unconsciously or not they consistently reward and reinforce more feminine behavior (Thomas 121). This is simply genetics playing a role in the classrooms with female teachers and can’t be held responsible for these conclusions.
David Thomas claimed that it was well established that, “in mixed-sex classrooms male pupils receive more teacher attention than do females” (p. 127). Similarly, (Swann & Wheldall, 1988) agreed based on analysis of two sequences of classroom interaction. Dart & Clarke questioned those findings on the grounds of databases being small, and that only overall measures were considered. They collected and analyzed data from 24 science lessons and came into conclusions that whilst boys had greater numbers of interactions with their teachers than girls, girls were taking lead in initiating more interactions. In addition, they discovered that the largest difference between the results from girls and boys was in the behavior category (Croll, 1985). These conclusions were made on basis of a very small sample and hence cannot be identified as facts.
The importance of teachers’ responses with regard to the use of praises and reprimands have been researched thoroughly by behavior analysts in classroom settings and they have always demonstrated that reinforcement critically thought by teachers have a powerful influence on pupils behavior (Merrett & Wheldall, 1986). These studies, employing the OPTIC (Observing Pupils and Teachers In Classrooms) schedule indicated that teachers in primary and secondary schools used more praise comments overall than disapproving statements (Merrett &Wheldall, 1986). It was pleasing finding out that teachers were more approving than disapproving overall. Teachers should aim to give much more positive comments than negative comments, to foster desirable behavior for all students.
In response to academic behavior of pupils, teachers used more praise comments than disapproving statements whereas for pupils’ social behavior they used reprimands more than praises. The decision to employ a modified version of OPTIC schedule was made in order to determine how the teachers distributed their use of praises and reprimands across pupil's gender. Given that such teachers responses are very important determinants of academic progress and classroom behavior it is good to know whether such response are employed equally to girls and boys (Dart & Clarke, 1988). Students are in school for academic purpose majorly and so it is expected for them to perform better in academics and a result the positive comments are therefore expected.

The observational study was undertaken for both primary and secondary schools. In the primary school sample, there were ten male and 22 female teachers, giving a total of 32. The average number of pupils in their classes during the observation was 25.7 with a range of 16 to 41. The average number of boys present was 14 with a range of 7 to 27 and the average number of girls present was 12 with a range of 7 to 16. The secondary school sample was inclusive of 17 female and 21 male teachers, 38 in total. The average size while under observations was 22.2 ranging from 8 to 37. The average number of girls present was 11 ranging from 3 to 22. And the average number of boys present was also 11 ranging from 5 to 20. A very small sample indeed.

Observation Schedule

The OPTIC schedule (Wheldall, 1986), was used thou slightly modified. The schedule allows the observer to study the teachers’ behavior and a class by simply alternating her or his attention between them systematically. For section A (each 3 minutes of 5 periods) the observer would record the number of praises and reprimanding comments the teacher made (either by word or action) indicating whether resulting from social or academic behavior on pupils’ part. For section B (each 3 minutes for five periods) the observer would look at each pupil in turn for a very short period and record whether throughout the period they were on or off the task. The schedule was slightly amended for this study so that, by using different colored markers, observers would record whether the teachers’ responses were directed to a girl or a boy. Similarly, when recording for pupil on-task behavior, the use of different colored markers would allow the observer to be able to differentiate between girls and boys. At the end of the exercise period the observer had a sample of the number of praises and a reprimand dished out to girls and boys and was able to work out the percentage of on-task levels of girls and boys separately for the periods of observation.


Each teacher and class was under observation on three occasions for 30 minutes employing the OPTIC schedule that was modified. On one occasion for each teacher, when possible, two observers were present to record data for comparison and an agreement made on the degree of inter-observer. Teachers’ responses to girls and boys were totaled over the three periods and tabulated separately. Each total was then divided by the number of girls or boys present during the observation periods and then multiplied by 4/3 to give the rate of responding to each per hour. The rates at which the teacher responded per hour were then used as a base for comparison. Similarly, the levels of on-task behavior were put into the average over the three sessions for comparison. This was commendable as two observers would eliminate bias in the research.


For 50% of the teachers and classes observed the inter-observer agreement data were available for teacher behavior and pupils’ on-task behavior. The inter-observer agreement was worked out by applying the formula of dividing the number of agreements by the total number of both the agreement and disagreements and then expressing them as a percentage. The inter-observer agreement average was 91% ranging from 73 to 100 for teacher behavior and 90% ranging from 67 to 100 for pupil on-task behavior. It is acceptable that inter-observer agreement of levels 80% and above implied acceptable reliability. Hence, the data was also accepted as reliable. For the primary sample as seen in Table 1, there were very small differences between teachers’ responses to girls and boys. Moreover, none of the small differences were of statistical significance. The average of task on behavior levels of girls and boys were very similar (girls 74.6%; boys 72.4%). Analyzes of female and male teachers separately revealed no significant differences in teachers’ behavior across gender of pupils’ nor in or on-task behavior between girls and boys. It can explained as a possibility that the boys and girls in primary schools are yet to develop major negative issues in their self-esteem and identification.
The data from a sample of secondary school teachers revealed a very different pattern of responses. As seen in Table 11, the sample of secondary school teachers responded differently to girls as opposed to boys. The teachers gave more praises to boys for academic behavior and not for social behavior. They also gave more reprimands to boys for both social and academic behaviors. Hence, the result of the total number of praises, the total number of reprimands and the total number of overall teacher responses were directed to the boys than girls at a high degree. Levels of on-task behavior for girls and boys were very similar. The data were analyzed for female teachers and male teachers separately in order to determine whether the sex of the teacher was a critical factor in the differential responding. The study has demonstrated that the nature of the attention given to students may not necessary constitute an advantage especially if the attention given is negative responses to the behavior.

When the data for women teachers were analyzed (in Table IV) it was discovered that they also gave more responses to boys than girls. However, unlike the male teachers they gave more reprimands to boys than girls, specifically reprimands to social behavior. In all other classes of responses female teachers gave more responses to male students rather than the female students thou the differences were not statistically significant. On-task levels for female teachers’ girls and boys were very similar.
These results show that both men and women teachers in secondary schools responded more to boys than girls and that their pattern of responding differed. Women teachers in particular gave more reprimands to boys for their social behavior whereas the men teachers gave them more praises to their academic behavior. As noted, the levels of on-task behavior for girls and boys were similar for classes taught by female and male teachers.


The results from the primary school sample that revealed no significant differences between men and women teachers are very surprising since they conflict with some previous results and the beliefs of so many educationists. Although the data are based on a small sample of the primary school teachers, when analyzed separately by gender of the teacher none of differences between girls and boys came close to critical values for them to be significant. In the light of these facts, the teachers commonly report that male students are more troublesome than female students. It is logical that if the boys are the ones causing more disruptions in class they will be reprimanded more frequently. This conclusion then assumes that this is how teachers should respond to such behavior. It was also very surprising to find out that on-task levels behavior for girls and boys were very similar. (Wheldall, Morris, & Vaughan, Rows versus tables: an example of the use of behavioral ecology in two classes of eleven-year-old children, 1981), for example, noted that girls showed higher on task levels than boys.)
On the other hand, the results from the secondary school sample were more in line with previous results and current beliefs. It was found that average on-task levels for boys and girls were very similar, but the data also showed major differences in teacher responses toward girls and boys. The results indicated that overall boys receive more responses from teachers than girls, confirming the beliefs of, (Swann & Graddol, Gender inequalities in classroom talk, 1988) (Kelly, 1988). A careful examination of the data revealed significant differences in the patterns of responses between female and male teachers. In spite of the indications on-task levels that girls and boys are paying attention to their work comparably, boys receive more praises from male teachers on their academic behavior. Female teachers while still responding more to boys they do so by reprimanding them on their social behavior, despite the similarity on-task levels.
Clearly female and male teachers are responding differently to girls and boys in spite of their attention to their tasks being the same. These results may be explained by the possibilities that female teachers may encounter more disruptive behavior from boys than male teachers do, and that boys put more effort than girls do for male teachers. However, the on-task behavior data show no major differences between girls and boys for female or male teachers. Although the on-task behavior levels were similar for both girls and boys, the off-task behavior may have been different. It is quite possible that when boys are off-task they are more disruptive than girls who are off-task. Clearly, a detailed research that has a larger database is needed to enhance us to explore the off-task behavior thoroughly (Houghton, Wheldall, & Merrett, 1988).
Conclusively, on the basis of the small samples it is evident that differential teacher responses across pupil gender at the secondary school level results in boys more responses from teachers than girls. Teacher gender also an important determinant of the pattern in which responses are given. We also know that, not only are students themselves and teachers are factors that lead to gender biases in classrooms but also the textbooks present in schools do play a role in influencing gender gaps in the educational atmosphere. Many history books are guilty of not portraying women in an intellectual light. Traditional gender roles in the global society also play an important role in leading gender biases between teacher-student relations. There are so many things to consider before these studies and opinions of the researchers are identified as facts.


Croll, p. (1985). Teacher interaction with male and female pupils in junior classrooms. Education Research,27, 220-223.
Dart, B. C., & Clarke, J. A. (1988). Sexism in schools: a new look. Educational Review,40, 41-49.
French, J., & French, p. (1984). Gender imbalances in primary classrooms. Educational Research,26, 127-136.
Houghton, S., Wheldall, K., & Merrett, F. (1988). Classroom behavior problem which secondary school teachers say they most troublesome. British Educational Research Journal,14, 295-310.
Kelly, A. (1988). Gender differences in teacher-pupil interactions: a meta-anlytic review. Research in Education, 39, 1-24.
Merrett, F., & Wheldall, K. (1986). Enouragement works better than punishment. Sydney: Sage.
Swann, J., & Graddol, D. (1988). Gender inequalities in classroom talk. English in Education, 48-65.
Swann, J., & Wheldall, D. (1988). Gender inequalities in classroom talk, English un Education. Milton Keyes: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Wheldall, K. (1986). Observing Pupils and Teachers In Classroom. Sydney, Australia.
Wheldall, K., Morris, M., & Vaughan, p. (1981). Rows versus tables: an example of the use of behavioral ecology in two classes of eleven year-old children. Education Psychology, 171-184.

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