Teacher Grading Tests

Widespread and lasting consequences: teachers give girls higher grades than boys

Teacher Rating Tests

The researchers demonstrated that the bias was systemic and could have long-term consequences.

The study found that girls often got better grades than boys, even though they had the same academic skills.

According to a recent study of tens of thousands of students and their professors, girls often obtain more favorable grades than men with the same academic abilities.

This bias against boys can mean the difference between passing and failing classes like math. Italian researchers warn that it may also have wider repercussions on issues such as university admission, career choice and income.

Their research, which was published in the British Journal of the Sociology of Educationis the first to show that the problem is systemic and exists in a variety of educational contexts, regardless of teacher characteristics.

Gender disparities in educational achievement are common around the world. However, the magnitude of the difference varies depending on how performance is measured.

Girls often outperform men in humanities, languages ​​and reading when standardized test results, which have a set scoring system, are used, while boys perform better in math. However, when teachers give grades, women outperform men in all areas.

Researchers at the University of Trento began by comparing the scores obtained by almost 40,000 students in their classroom exams with the scores they obtained on almost 40,000 standardized language and arithmetic tests in order to determine the extent to which teacher evaluations tend to favor women.

The 38,957 students were in tenth grade, making them between 15 and 16 years old. National standardized tests were set and scored anonymously, but classroom exams were set and scored non-anonymously by their teachers.

Consistent with previous studies, girls performed better than boys on standardized language tests, while boys were ahead in math.

The teachers, however, put the girls ahead in both subjects. The average language score for girls was 6.6 (out of 10), compared to 6.2 for boys. In math, the girls’ average score was 6.3, while the boys’ average was 5.9, which is below the passing score of 6.

The analysis also showed that when a boy and a girl were equally proficient in a subject, the girl generally received a higher mark. The researchers then looked at whether factors, such as school type and class size and gender composition, were driving the gender gap.

They also investigated whether characteristics of the teachers themselves, such as their seniority or experience and whether they were male or female, helped explain the higher grades of girls.

Only two factors had an effect – and only in mathematics. The gender gap in math scores was greater when classes were larger. Girls were also ranked as being further ahead of boys in technical and university schools than in vocational schools.

None of the other factors had a significant effect on reducing the gender scoring gap. Taken together, the results show for the first time that girls’ achievement of higher grades is systemic – rather than the result of any particular failure, it is embedded across the whole school system.

The study authors say it’s possible that in reading, teachers are unconsciously rewarding students who exhibit traditionally feminine behavior, such as quietness and cleanliness, which makes teaching easier for teachers. Another theory is that inflated grades in math are a way of trying to encourage girls, who are often seen as weaker in that subject.

The authors of the study conclude that the prejudice against boys in Italian schools is considerable and could have long-term consequences.

“There is a strong correlation between higher grades and desirable academic outcomes, such as admission to good colleges or a lower likelihood of dropping out of school,” says researcher Ilaria Lievore, who holds a Ph.D. . candidate in sociology. “Therefore, higher grades are also correlated with other outcomes, such as higher income, better employment, or even greater life satisfaction.”

She adds that although other European countries also classify girls more generously than boys, the reasons may differ from place to place and will not necessarily reflect those of Italy.

Reference: “Do teacher and class characteristics affect how girls and boys are graded?” » by Ilaria Lievore and Moris Triventi, October 17, 2022, British Journal of the Sociology of Education.
DOI: 10.1080/01425692.2022.2122942

The study was funded by the Compagnia di San Paolo.

Limitations of the study include the use of grades awarded during the school year. These may differ from the students’ final grades and therefore affect the results.

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