Persistent and Contradictory Comparative Claims of Boys' and Girls' Reading Achievement: A Historical Interpretive Approach

  • Author / Creator
    Loerke, Karen G
  • ABSTRACT Persistent and contradictory claims that boys are not doing as well as girls in reading achievement have been made since the time of compulsory education in North America (1890). Since approximately half of the school population is comprised of boys, it was critical to understand the extent of, and possible causes for such a gender gap. A plethora of inconsistent research findings across a range of methodologies and perspectives over such an extensive time period (1890 to the present) made it essential to implement a systematic evidence-based historical interpretive (SEHI) methodology to investigate the relative claim of a boy-girl gap in reading achievement over 12 decades. Database searches generated over 3,000 hits and yielded 78 trustworthy studies from four time-periods (1890–1920; 1921–1945; 1946–1980; 1981–2011). A comprehensive examination and interpretation of the evidence-based studies revealed that boys’ and girls’ reading achievement differ by approximately only 1%. Evidence has indicated confusion around the reporting of statistical information and the use of new scaling systems that have inflated differences in the scores between girls and boys. Findings reveal the critical need to study primary sources when citing prior results. The only select groups of boys underachieving in reading comprehension borne out by the research evidence are those from low SES backgrounds and boys of colour. Reasons that boys underachieve in reading and possible solutions are multi-dimensional that go beyond proposed simplistic solutions such as buy more boy-friendly books, hire more male teachers, or provide boys’ only classes. To focus on boys as a group presupposes that all boys are underachieving in reading and that all girls are doing well, thereby overstating the problem for boys while ignoring girls. Evidence from low-gender gap schools reveals that when teachers have high expectations for their students with additional support for struggling learners, all students achieve. Publicity claims around boys’ poor performance in reading comprehension are not only false but have serious implications for both boys and girls. It is time to debunk the myth: boys’ are not underachieving in reading and have not done so over the past century.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Elementary Education
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Linda Phillips (Elementary Education)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Laura Sokal (Education)
    • Jean Clandinin (Elementary Education)
    • Andre Grace (Educational Policy Studies)
    • Denyse Hayward (Educational Psychology)
    • Larry Prochner (Elementary Education)