Social Psychology of Education

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 467–485 | Cite as

Do teachers equate male and masculine with lower academic engagement? How students’ gender enactment triggers gender stereotypes at school

  • Anke HeyderEmail author
  • Ursula Kessels


Girls presently outperform boys in overall academic success. Corresponding gender stereotypes portray male students as lazy and troublesome and female students as diligent and compliant. The present study investigated whether these stereotypes impact teachers’ perceptions of students and whether students’ visible enactment of their gender at school (behaving in a very masculine or feminine way) increases the impact of these stereotypes on teachers’ perceptions of students. We hypothesized that teachers would ascribe more behavior that impedes learning and less behavior that fosters learning to male students who enact masculinity as compared with male students who show gender-neutral behavior and female students. Three pilot studies (N = 104; N = 82; N = 86) yielded pretested material for a randomized vignette study of N = 104 teachers. The teachers read one randomly assigned vignette describing a male (or female) student enacting his (or her) gender (or not) and rated how likely this student would be to display behaviors that impede or foster learning in a 2 (between: target students’ gender) × 2 (between: gender enactment [yes/no]) × 2 (between: teachers’ gender) × 2 (within: ascribed behavior) factorial design. As expected, male students enacting masculinity were rated as showing the lowest amount of academic engagement. Results are discussed with regard to the current debate on the causes of boys’ lower academic success.


Gender stereotypes Masculinity Gender differences in academic achievement Teachers’ expectations Academic engagement 



The current research was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) allocated to the second author (KE 1412/2-1).


  1. Ambady, N., Shih, M., Kim, A., & Pittinsky, T. L. (2001). Stereotype susceptibility in children: Effects of identity activation on quantitative performance. Psychological Science, 12, 385–390. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.00371 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Athenstaedt, U., Heinzle, C., & Lerchbaumer, G. (2008). Gender subgroup self-categorization and gender role self-concept. Sex Roles, 58, 266–278. doi: 10.1007/s11199-007-9288-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Banaji, M. R., Hardin, C., & Rothman, A. J. (1993). Implicit stereotyping in person judgment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 272–281. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.65.2.272 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beckett, N. E., & Park, B. (1995). Use of category versus individuating information: Making base rates salient. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 21–31. doi: 10.1177/0146167295211004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bem, S. L. (1983). Gender Schema Theory and its implications for child development: Raising gender-aschematic children in a gender-schematic society. Signs, 8, 598–616. doi: 10.1086/493998 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bigler, R. S. (1995). The role of classification skill in moderating environmental influences on children’s gender stereotyping: A study of the functional use of gender in the classroom. Child Development, 66, 1072–1087. doi: 10.2307/1131799 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Buchmann, C., DiPrete, T. A., & McDaniel, A. (2008). Gender inequalities in education. Annual Review of Sociology, 34, 319–337. doi: 10.1146/annurev.soc.34.040507.134719 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Burke, P. J. (1989). Gender identity, sex, and school performance. Social Psychology Quarterly, 52, 159–169. doi: 10.2307/2786915 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Campbell, D. T. (1967). Stereotypes and the perception of group differences. American Psychologist, 22, 817–829. doi: 10.1037/h0025079 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Condry, J., & Condry, S. (1976). Sex differences: A study of the eye of the beholder. Child Development, 47, 812–819. doi: 10.2307/1128199.Google Scholar
  11. Costa, P., Terracciano, A., & McCrae, R. R. (2001). Gender differences in personality traits across cultures: Robust and surprising findings. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 322–331. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.81.2.322 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. de Boer, H., Bosker, R. J., & van der Werf, M. P. C. (2010). Sustainability of teacher expectation bias effects on long-term student performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102, 168–179. doi: 10.1037/a0017289 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. De Fruyt, F., van Leeuwen, K., de Bolle, M., & de Clercq, B. (2008). Sex differences in school performance as a function of conscientiousness, imagination and the mediating role of problem behaviour. European Journal of Personality, 22, 167–184. doi: 10.1002/per.675 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Deaux, K., & Major, B. (1987). Putting gender into context: An interactive model of gender-related behavior. Psychological Review, 94, 369–389. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.94.3.369 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Department of Education and Skills. (2007). Gender and education: The evidence on pupils in England. London: Department of Education and Skills.Google Scholar
  16. Eckes, T. (1994). Explorations in gender cognition: Content and structure of female and male subtypes. Social Cognition, 12, 37–60. doi: 10.1521/soco.1994.12.1.37 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Egan, S. K., & Perry, D. G. (2001). Gender identity: A multidimensional analysis with implications for psychosocial adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 37, 451–463. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.37.4.451 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Finkenauer, C., Engels, R. C., Meeus, W., & Oosterwegel, A. (2002). Self and identity in early adolescence: The pains and gains of knowing who and what you are. In T. M. Brinthaupt & R. P. Lipka (Eds.), Understanding early adolescent self and identity. Applications and interventions (pp. 25–56). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  19. Fiske, S. T., & Neuberg, S. L. (1990). A continuum of impression formation, from category based to individuating processes: Influences of information and motivation on attention and interpretation. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 23, 1–74. doi: 10.1016/s0065-2601(08)60317-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Glock, S., & Krolak-Schwerdt, S. (2014). Stereotype activation versus application: how teachers process and judge information about students from ethnic minorities and with low socioeconomic background. Social Psychology of Education. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s11218-014-9266-6
  21. Goffman, E. (1976). Gender advertisements. Communications and culture. New York, NY: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  22. Gold, D., & Reis, M. (1982). Male teacher effects on young children: A theoretical and empirical consideration. Sex Roles, 8, 493–513. doi: 10.1007/BF00287715 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hamilton, D. L., Sherman, S. J., & Ruvolo, C. M. (1990). Stereotype-based expectancies: Effects on information processing and social behavior. Journal of Social Issues, 46(2), 35–60.  10.1111/j.1540-4560.1990.tb01922.x.
  24. Hannover, B. (1997). Das dynamische Selbst: Die Kontextabhängigkeit selbstbezogenen Wissens (The dynamic self: Context dependency of self related knowledge). Bern, Seattle: Huber.Google Scholar
  25. Hannover, B., & Kessels, U. (2011). Sind Jungen die neuen Bildungsverlierer? Empirische Evidenz für Geschlechterdisparitäten zuungunsten von Jungen und Erklärungsansätze (Are boys left behind? Reviewing and explaining education-related gender disparities). Zeitschrift für Pädagogische Psychologie, 25, 89–103. doi: 10.1024/1010-0652/a000039 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hartley, B. L., & Sutton, R. M. (2013). A stereotype threat account of boys’ academic underachievement. Child Development, 84, 1716–1733. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12079 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Havighurst, R. J. (1961). Human development and education. New York: Longmans, Green & Co.Google Scholar
  28. Hilliard, L. J., & Liben, L. S. (2010). Differing levels of gender salience in preschool classrooms: Effects on children’s gender attitudes and intergroup bias. Child Development, 81, 1787–1798. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01510.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hinnant, J. B., O’Brien, M., & Ghazarian, S. R. (2009). The longitudinal relations of teacher expectations to achievement in the early school years. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101, 662–670. doi: 10.1037/a0014306 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jackson, C., & Dempster, S. (2009). ‘I sat back on my computer … with a bottle of whisky next to me’: Constructing ‘cool’ masculinity through ‘effortless’ achievement in secondary and higher education. Journal of Gender Studies, 18, 341–356. doi: 10.1080/09589230903260019 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jewell, J. A., & Brown, C. S. (2014). Relations among gender typicality, peer relations, and mental health during early adolescence. Social Development, 23, 137–156. doi: 10.1111/sode.12042 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jones, S., & Myhill, D. (2004). ‘Troublesome boys’ and ‘compliant girls’: Gender identity and perceptions of achievement and underachievement. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 25, 547–561. doi: 10.1080/0142569042000252044 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Jussim, L., & Harber, K. D. (2005). Teacher expectations and self-fulfilling prophecies: Knowns and unknowns, resolved and unresolved controversies. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 9, 131–155. doi: 10.1207/s15327957pspr0902_3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kessels, U., & Hannover, B. (2008). When being a girl matters less: Accessibility of gender-related self-knowledge in single-sex and coeducational classes and its impact on students’ physics-related self-concept of ability. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 78, 273–289. doi: 10.1348/000709907X215938 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kessels, U., Heyder, A., Latsch, M., & Hannover, B. (2014). How gender differences in academic engagement relate to students’ gender identity. Educational Research, 56, 219–228. doi: 10.1080/00131881.2014.898916 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kessels, U., & Steinmayr, R. (2013). Macho-man in school: Toward the role of gender role self-concepts and help seeking in school performance. Learning and Individual Differences, 23, 234–240. doi: 10.1016/j.lindif.2012.09.013 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kessels, U., Warner, L. M., Holle, J., & Hannover, B. (2008). Identitätsbedrohung durch positives schulisches Leistungsfeedback [Threat to idendity through positive feedback about academic performance]. Zeitschrift für Entwicklungspsychologie und Pädagogische Psychologie, 40, 22–31. doi: 10.1026/0049-8637.40.1.22 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Krahé, B., Berger, A., & Möller, I. (2007). Entwicklung und Validierung eines Inventars zur Erfassung des Geschlechtsrollen-Selbstkonzepts im Jugendalter [Development and validation of an inventory for measuring gender role self-concept in adolescence]. Zeitschrift für Sozialpsychologie, 38, 195–208. doi: 10.1024/0044-3514.38.3.195 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lam, S.-F., Jimerson, S., Kikas, E., Cefai, C., Veiga, F. H., Nelson, B., & Zollneritsch, J. (2012). Do girls and boys perceive themselves as equally engaged in school? The results of an international study from 12 countries. Journal of School Psychology, 50, 77–94. doi: 10.1016/j.jsp.2011.07.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Latsch, M., & Hannover, B. (2014). Smart girls, dumb boys!?: How the discourse on ‘‘Failing Boys’’ impacts performances and motivational goal orientation in German school students. Social Psychology, 45, 112–126. doi: 10.1027/1864-9335/a000167 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lightbody, P., Siann, G., Stocks, R., & Walsh, D. (1996). Motivation and attribution at secondary school: The role of gender. Educational Studies, 22, 13–25. doi: 10.1080/0305569960220102 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Linville, P. W., & Carlston, D. E. (1994). Social cognition of the self. In P. G. Devine, D. L. Hamilton, & T. M. Ostrom (Eds.), Social cognition: Impact on social psychology (pp. 143–193). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  43. Lyng, S. T. (2009). Is there more to “antischoolishness” than masculinity?: On multiple student styles, gender, and educational self-exclusion in secondary school. Men and Masculinities, 11, 462–487. doi: 10.1177/1097184X06298780 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Macrae, C. N., & Cloutier, J. (2009). A matter of design: Priming context and person perception. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 1012–1015. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2009.04.021 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Markus, H., & Wurf, E. (1987). The dynamic self-concept: A social psychological perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 38, 299–337. doi: 10.1146/ CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Martin, C. L., & Halverson, C. F. (1981). A schematic processing model of sex typing and stereotyping in children. Child Development, 52, 1119–1134. doi: 10.2307/1129498 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mickelson, R. A. (1989). Why does Jane read and write so well? The anomaly of women’s achievement. Sociology of Education, 62, 47–63. doi: 10.2307/2112823 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Mok, M. M. C., Kennedy, K. J., & Moore, P. J. (2011). Academic attribution of secondary students: Gender, year level and achievement level. Educational Psychology, 31, 87–104. doi: 10.1080/01443410.2010.518596 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. National Center for Education Statistics. (2002). The condition of education. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  50. National Center for Education Statistics. (2009). The condition of education. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  51. Neugebauer, M., Helbig, M., & Landmann, A. (2011). Unmasking the myth of the same-sex teacher advantage. European Sociological Review, 27, 669–689. doi: 10.1093/esr/jcq038 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Orr, A. J. (2011). Gendered capital: Childhood socialization and the “boy crisis” in education. Sex Roles, 65, 271–284. doi: 10.1007/s11199-011-0016-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Ostendorf, F., & Angleitner, A. (2004). NEO-Persönlichkeitsinventar nach Costa und McCrae, Revidierte Fassung (NEO-PI-R) [NEO-Personality Inventory Revised]. Göttingen: Hogrefe.Google Scholar
  54. Räty, H., Vänskä, J., Kasanen, K., & Kärkkäinen, R. (2002). Parents’ explanations of their child’s performance in mathematics and reading: A replication and extension of Yee and Eccles. Sex Roles, 46, 121–128. doi: 10.1023/A:1016573627828 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Renninger, K. A. (2009). Interest and identity development in instruction: An inductive model. Educational Psychologist, 44, 105–118. doi: 10.1080/00461520902832392 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rudolph, U., Böhm, R., & Lummer, M. (2007). Ein Vorname sagt mehr als 1000 Worte: Zur sozialen Wahrnehmung von Vornamen [A name says more than a thousand words: The social perception of first names]. Zeitschrift für Sozialpsychologie, 38, 17–31. doi: 10.1024/0044-3514.38.1.17 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Shih, M., Pittinsky, T. L., & Ambady, N. (1999). Stereotype susceptibility: Identity salience and shifts in quantitative performance. Psychological Science, 10, 80–83. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.00111 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Spencer, S. J., Steele, C. M., & Quinn, D. M. (1999). Stereotype threat and women’s math performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 4–28. doi: 10.1006/jesp.1998.1373 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Statistisches Bundesamt Deutschland. (2011). Datenreport 2011: Ein Sozialbericht der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Band I [Data report 2011]. Bonn: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung.Google Scholar
  60. Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 797–811. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.69.5.79 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Steffens, M. C., & Jelenec, P. (2011). Separating implicit gender stereotypes regarding math and language: Implicit ability stereotypes are self-serving for boys and men, but not for girls and women. Sex Roles, 64, 324–335. doi: 10.1007/s11199-010-9924-x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Tenenbaum, H. R., & Ruck, M. D. (2007). Are teachers’ expectations different for racial minority than for European American students? A meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 253–273. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.99.2.253 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Trautwein, U., Lüdtke, O., Kastens, C., & Köller, O. (2006). Effort on homework in grades 5–9: Development, motivational antecedents, and the association with effort on classwork. Child Development, 77, 1094–1111. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2006.00921.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Voyer, D., & Voyer, S. D. (2014). Gender differences in scholastic achievement: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 140, 1174–1204. doi: 10.1037/a0036620 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Yunger, J. L., Carver, P. R., & Perry, D. G. (2004). Does gender identity influence children’s psychological well-being? Developmental Psychology, 40, 572–582. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.40.4.572 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Education and PsychologyFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations