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A systematic review of classroom strategies for reducing stereotypical gender constructions among girls and boys in mixed–sex UK primary schools

What do we want to know?

Despite the recent educational success of girls, and women's increased representation in the workplace, gender continues to influence our behaviour, choices and life outcomes.  Within education, a 'hidden curriculum' helps to perpetuate gender difference. It remains imperative, therefore, that effective equal opportunities strategies for improving and equalising girls' and boys' educational experiences and opportunities be identified and pursued.The focus of this review is on the reduction of gender-stereotypical constructions among pupils in primary schools. Such constructions impact on learning experience and outcome, often with detrimental effects.

Who wants to know?

Schools, teachers, parents, pupils, policy-makers.

What did we find?  

In view of the limitations in the reporting of some of the studies, these results must be considered tentative.

  • Single-sex settings seem to be effective in reducing stereotypical gender constructions when the aim is: to increase the self-confidence of girls and/or encourage them to experiment with non-gender-traditional activities; or to provide a setting for boys to tackle aspects of traditional forms of masculine attitudes and behaviour.
  • Mixed groups may be more effective in: encouraging cross-gender friendships; reducing stereotypical curriculum preferences, particularly with younger children; tackling stereotypical attitudes and behaviour through discussion and awareness of the perspectives of the opposite sex.
  • Intervention providers need a committed and long-term approach.
  • There are advantages in gaining support from the institution as a whole, particularly those exercising power, and adequate resourcing is essential.

What are the implications?

  • The principles highlighted in this review need to be incorporated into policy and practice guidance.
  • Strategies should be adopted in terms of fitness for purpose, taking context and aims into consideration when choosing which to use.
  • Identity factors other than gender in the pupil population (ethnicity, social class, and so on) may also need to be taken into consideration in the decision over which strategies are to be used and the way in which they are to be applied and developed in particular schools.
  • Teachers should consider the needs of girls and boys, and ensure that neither group feels marginalised by the processes.
  • A holistic approach is recommended, with attention to macro (e.g. institutional) as well as micro issues. Where possible, strategies should be conceived as long-term and practical, and support sought from colleagues and managers.

How did we get these results?

Nine studies were synthesised.  Most were small classroom studies set within the school curriculum.

This summary was prepared by the EPPI Centre

This report should be cited as Francis B, Skelton C, Archer L (2002). A systematic review of classroom strategies for reducing stereotypical gender constructions among girls and boys in mixed-sex UK primary schools. In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London

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