In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Gender and Achievement

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Textbooks
  • Meta-Analyses on Gender Differences in Performance
  • Self-Regulated Learning
  • Implicit Measures of Stereotyping of STEM Subjects as Male
  • Stereotype Threat
  • Single-Sex Education

Education Gender and Achievement
Ursula Kessels
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 August 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0086


This article covers sources on gender differences in educational outcomes and processes, as well as on possible explanatory factors, mainly from a psychological perspective. For describing gender differences in academic outcomes, publications on performance measures as assessed in international large-scale studies (like the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA) and meta-analysis were chosen, completed by articles which address the recent “underperformance” of boys regarding grades and school leaving certificates and the underrepresentation of women in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), mainly by focusing on the model of achievement-related choices in Eccles, et al. 1983 (cited under the Expectancy-Value Model of Achievement-Related Choices). As psychological factors contributing to these differences in academic specialization and success, gender differences in different facets of motivation, personality, and self-regulated learning are one important topic of this article and are covered by several studies. To what extent and how socializing agents (like teachers, parents, role models) influence stereotypic beliefs and academic engagement in a gender-specific manner is described by many papers included in this chapter. Further, a lot of research has dealt (and is presented in this article) with the (in-)compatibility of the male and female gender roles, or gender identity, with the school setting, academic demand, or specific academic domains. The extent and the individual consequences of the male stereotyping of the STEM subjects are shown by studies measuring implicit (i.e., automatic, nonconscious) stereotyping of math or science by students of various age groups. The consequences of this male stereotyping of STEM subjects are further illustrated by studies on stereotype threat, the phenomenon that women underperform on (demanding) math tasks if gender or gender differences in math are made salient during the testing situation. Whether single-sex classrooms or single-sex schools can contribute to a less gender-stereotyped profile of performance and interests is a widely, and very controversially, discussed subject; several sources are given covering these diverse results and viewpoints.

General Overviews and Textbooks

The overviews and textbooks recommended in this section cover many different topics from very diverse viewpoints. Since a main focus of the article is gender differences in academic outcomes, as performance and attitudes, this section includes the PISA-based overview on gender differences in reading, math, and science competencies in the OECD countries (OECD 2009). This important data-driven compilation is complemented by works that extend the theoretical framework on gender and education. Skelton, et al. 2006 illuminates the many areas in education in which gender questions occur, embedded in theories discussing gender as a social and cultural construct. Arnot and Mac an Ghaill 2006 gives an introduction into important recent gender theories, again mostly socio-constructivists, and apply these theories’ potential to understand gendered processes and outcomes in education. However, most of these papers, theories, and educational concerns regarding gender equity in education have focused mostly on “western” industrialized countries. Fennell and Arnot 2008 extends the view to conditions regarding gender equity in developing countries.

  • Arnot, Madeleine, and Máirtín Mac an Ghaill. 2006. The RoutledgeFalmer reader in gender and education. London: Routledge.

    A collection of papers which links topics of education to gender studies. Includes classic authors (e.g., Bourdieu, Connell) and more recent texts, reflecting mostly a perspective on gender as an “embodiment of social, cultural and historical constructions” (p. 4) and its relevance for school and education. Stimulates discussion of the categories used when debating “gender and education.” Illustrative introduction by the editors.

  • Fennell, Shailaja, and Madeleine Arnot, eds. 2008. Gender education and equality in a global context. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

    A global view on gender and education, including chapters on topics vital in developing countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, pointing out that the discourse on gender equality in education in “richer Western economies” (p. 1) is different from the concerns of educationalists working on gender equality in developing countries.

  • OECD. 2009. Equally prepared for life? How 15-year-old boys and girls perform in school. Paris: OECD.

    Overview on the educational outcomes (performance and attitudes) of male and female adolescents in the OECD countries, using data gained from PISA 2000, PISA 2003, and PISA 2006, focusing on reading, mathematics, problem solving, and science, including examples of the questions measuring different competencies. Many descriptive tables for all participating countries.

  • Skelton, Christine, Becky Francis, and Lisa Smulyan, eds. 2006. SAGE handbook of gender and education. London: SAGE.

    Collection of papers that cover a wide range of educational topics related to gender (all educational sectors, school subjects, gender identity and educational sites, gender and the teaching profession), mostly from a socio-constructionist perspective on gender.

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