How Does Gender Affect Pupils' Behaviour and Development? Gender-related Heterogeneity in the EFL-Classroom

Term Paper, 2018

19 Pages, Grade: 1,3



Table of contents

1 Introduction

2 Heterogeneity in the EFL-classroom

3 Gender as one aspect of heterogeneity
3.1 Sex vs. gender
3.2 Gender equity
3.3 Gender differences

4 Gender-related stereotypes
4.1 The ideal male/female student
4.2 Disadvantages of gender-related ascriptions

5 The teachers’ role

6 Conclusion


List of figures

Figure 1: Emotional, Physical, Psychological, and Social Differences

1 Introduction

“[I]dentities, including gender identity, are not stable things but are an effect of interaction with others” (Huajing 2011, p. 5). For this reason, it is interesting to have a look at to what extent gender plays a role in the EFL-classroom where interaction and communication between the two genders are an essential component.

Heterogeneity is present in many different aspects of today’s life. In school heterogeneity can be found in many facets – the pupils’ and teachers’ different ages, different looks, different clothing, different ethnicities, different mother tongues, different behavior, different learning prerequisites and – not to forget – the different genders.

The EFL-classroom is a place where students come with a wide range of different prerequisites. Still, each of them should have the opportunity to develop and improve their language learning skills. Gender is one important factor which can affect the pupils’ development. Therefore, this work aims at presenting and critically discussing gender-related stereotypes in the EFL-classroom and in schools in general and how they affect the pupils’ behavior and development. The students’ as well as the teachers’ ascriptions towards the two genders “male” and “female” are being discussed and the way teachers should be aware of gender-related stereotypes is brought up.

First, the different aspects of heterogeneity in the EFL-classroom are defined. Afterwards, gender as one aspect of heterogeneity is elucidated. The terms gender and sex are being differentiated and important aspects of gender equity and gender differences are named. Chapter 4 deals with gender-related stereotypes in the EFL-classroom and in school in general. The ideal female and the ideal male characteristics are specified and disadvantages of gender-related ascriptions by teachers and pupils are discussed. The last chapter illustrates the teachers’ role in the EFL-classroom where stereotypes are practiced and how they should react to gender-related ascriptions. The work closes with a conclusion.

2 Heterogeneity in the EFL-classroom

The term heterogeneity in the context of school in general and also in the EFL-classroom refers to differences between pupils. Differences appear, when two or more aspects or characteristics are being compared with each other (cf. Sturm 2016, p. 15). Their relation can either be equal or unequal, or in this context homogeneous or heterogeneous. A student’s performance in school therefore cannot be heterogeneous or homogeneous. First, two performances at different times must be compared or a student’s performance is compared to another student’s performance in order to grade the performances into heterogeneous or homogeneous (cf. ibid.). The terms homogeneity and heterogeneity are connected with each other as it is not possible to describe one without using the other one (cf. ibid.). Hetero- and Homogeneity are socially made constructions from a specific perspective because they are based on individual experiences. By depicting differences, heterogeneity has the effect of discrimination, whereas homogeneity establishes affiliation. Together, they construct two angles of differences (cf. ibid.).

Heterogeneity often occurs in connection with the terms of disparity and discrimination or disadvantage of social groups in school and school lessons as well as the EFL-classroom (cf. ibid, p. 9). The reason for the connection of those terms is that heterogeneity is difficult to deal with for the teachers and often ends in unjust decisions or solutions.

As learning is an individual process, different pupils use different ways of learning, it takes them a different amount of time to learn and it leads to different outcomes (cf. Thaler 2012, p. 129). Therefore, every learner has its individual needs, strengths and weaknesses. “Such an understanding of the uniqueness of each learner leads to a fundamental elimination of the dichotomy of good and bad […] learners” (Eisenmann 2019, p. 44). It rather stresses the importance of regarding differences between pupils in the EFL-classroom.

The term heterogeneity in the context of the EFL-classroom includes age, gender, personality, motivation, intelligence, language aptitude, ethnical and social background, style of learning and learning strategies (cf. Sturm 2016, p. 129). In order to prevent disparity and discrimination of those different learners, teachers need to be aware of the learners’ differences and include them in their lessons.

According to Fromm, the following differences between pupils are relevant in the school context: interest, style of learning, tolerance in frustrating situations, level of competence, effort, gender and respect (cf. Fromm 2019, p. 18).

Walgenbach names four relevant dimensions for concerning heterogeneity in school: heterogeneity as chance or burden, heterogeneity as social inequality, heterogeneity as differences and heterogeneity as didactical challenge (cf. Walgenbach 2014, p. 25).

Eisenmann lists the following emotional, physical, psychological and social differences occurring in the context of school:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: Emotional, Physical, Psychological, and Social Differences (Eisenmann 2019, p. 46)

All of these heterogeneous features and aspects have to be taken into account and should be included into the EFL-classroom.

3 Gender as one aspect of heterogeneity

3.1 Sex vs. gender

As mentioned above, gender is one aspect of how heterogeneity in the EFL-classroom occurs. Gender is said to be a “society’s central structuring principle“ 1 (Sturm 2016, p. 80). People make gender-related ascriptions in every culture, but they differ from culture to culture. Whereas the term “sex” refers to someone’s biological features, gender is a social construction which refers to someone’s practices in everyday life (cf. ibid., p. 81 f.). Sex is given by nature and every human being can be assigned to one of two categories – man or woman. Gender, however, is based on perceptions of adequate gender-based behavior (cf. ibid., p. 82). Gender-based behavior means looking, feeling and acting like a man or like a woman. The meaning of gender in our society increases. One reason is that the term gender as well as gender-related behavior leads to stereotypes. In this work, the term gender will be used in order to emphasize the reactions and consequences going along with the behavior of groups of people, in this case the different sexes.

Huajing mentions that

“with respect to gender identity, more and more sociolinguists have abandoned the assumption that the meaning of gender is shared across cultures and that it is fixed, unproblematic and can be easily isolated from other aspects of social identity” (Huajing 2011, p. 3).

Gender is rather seen as the actions of how people behave and how they act and not how people are.

3.2 Gender equity

The aim of gender equity is to provide same chances, access, rights and possibilities for everybody without regarding their gender (cf. ibid., p. 85). Gender equity in the EFL-classroom means to give both boys and girls the same chance to learn and to develop. Another important aim of gender equity in the EFL-classroom is the degradation of gender stereotypes (cf. ibid.). Degrading stereotypes makes it easier for the teachers to provide both boys and girls with the same chances as during “lessons, teachers often tend to formulate expectations of gender-stereotypical behaviour to their pupils” (Drinck 2011, p. 48). For this reason, gender equity is difficult to implement in school lessons as well as the EFL-classroom for the teachers.

3.3 Gender differences

According to PISA, more girls reach higher educational schools than boys do (cf. Sturm 2016, p. 87). Following this aspect, the percentage of girls attending secondary school (the German “Gymnasium”) is much higher than the percentage of boys. At the so-called Gesamtschule (comprehensive school) or at special schools, the percentage of boys attending those schools is higher than the percentage of girls.

Differences between girls and boys in school are said to be subject-specific. Girls do better in reading than boys, whereas boys reach higher levels of competence in sciences (cf. ibid., p. 89).

As depicted, there are differences between the different genders and “girls and boys may indeed possess different skills and abilities but at the same time the problem of a dichotomous role ascription to both genders is pointed out which counteracts equality of educational opportunities” (Drinck 2011, p. 48).

Those dichotomous role ascriptions occur in the EFL-classroom and therefore hinder some pupils in learning the English language. For learning a new language – just like it is in every other subject – all children need to be provided with the same chances to develop their skills.

Norton and Pavlenko emphasize that “gender, as one of many important facets of social identity, interacts with race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, (dis)ability, age, and social status in framing students’ language learning experiences, trajectories, and outcomes” (Pavlenko & Norton 2004, p. 504). According to this opinion, gender should not be seen as the only factor of how and why children behave differently in the EFL-classroom.

Hence, it is important to be aware of occurring stereotypes concerning the two genders in school in general and in the EFL-classroom.

4 Gender-related stereotypes

According to Huajing “the links between language and gender are clearly not naturally but culturally constructed” (Huajing 2011, p. 5). Parents, for example, speak to their baby girls in another way than to their baby boys. This phenomenon occurs because of stereotypes people have in their minds. During EFL-classes stereotypes play a major role. Teachers and students use gender-related stereotypes many times both consciously and unconsciously.

Teachers have stereotypical perceptions of their pupils. They, for example, differentiate between calm and less calm students (cf. Sturm 2016, p. 91). Boys in general are said not to be calm. This can be called a stereotype as on the one hand there are many calm boys in the world and on the other hand girls can also be noisy and uneasy. However, because many girls tend to be calmer in school than boys, such stereotypes arise.

Another stereotype is that boys behave worse than girls in school. For this reason, boys are more often reprimanded by the teacher because of their social behavior (cf. ibid.). Due to the stereotype of boys behaving badly, boys are being sanctioned for their boyish behavior (cf. ibid.). Girls though are rewarded for their girlish behavior because they are said to be social and caring and behave in a good way in contrast to the boys.

Horstkemper mentions the difference of boys and girls handling rivalry in school lessons. Boys often react physically aggressive which sometimes leads to injuries, whereas girls tend to discharge rivalry through verbal aggression (cf. Horstkemper 2002, p. 71f.).

Caring for others and the interest in other peoples’ feelings is prototypical for girls in early ages already (cf. ibid., p. 72). Even the boys characterize girls in general as being caring, good listeners and good in arbitrating disputes (cf. ibid., p. 75). In the EFL-classroom caring for and being interested in the other pupils’ feelings is important in order to make everybody feel comfortable which enables children to improve their skills in an easier way.

Stereotypes in school often refer to special subjects. Boys are often less interested in languages. Therefore, the teachers try to reach the boys’ interest, for example by choosing specific boyish topics and books (cf. Sturm 2016, p. 92).

Mathematics is often seen as a boy’s subject as many girls have problems with doing mathematics. This thought of mathematics as a boyish subject makes it even harder for girls to develop interest in mathematics (cf. ibid.).

In general, “science, mathematics and technology are usually rated as ‘masculine’ by teachers and students and preferred by boys, while English, humanities and music tend to be regarded as ‘feminine’ and preferred by girls” (Huajing 2011, p. 10).

When it comes to engineering girls are said to be more reluctant, whereas boys tend to be interested in engineering (cf. Sturm 2016, p. 92). This stereotype is often already practiced at home before the children attend school. As parents have those stereotypes in mind, they often increase the boys’ interest in engineering by involving them in their technical work and making them support them in early ages already. Having some knowledge of and being able to work on technical issues makes them more interested in engineering. Girls, on the other hand, often do not make much contact with engineering in their early ages because their parents do not make them support them in technical issues. For this reason, girls in general do not develop great interest in engineering.

Furthermore, in the EFL-classroom “female students are more likely to comply with argument while male students should play a more competitive role in the process of discussion” (Huajing 2011, p. 10).

Boys are attributed with a productive acquisition of knowledge, whereas the girls’ acquisition of knowledge depends on their diligence and accuracy (cf. Sturm 2016, p. 92).

During the lessons teachers often practice stereotypes by their actions. If teachers ask questions concerning repetitions they normally pick girls to give the answer (cf. ibid.). By doing so, teachers provoke the thought of girls being better than boys in remembering the important issues of a lesson. As a consequence, boys stop keeping things in mind as they know that the girls are going to be picked to answer the repetition questions.


1 “zentrales gesellschaftliches Strukturierungsprinzip“ (Sturm 2016, p. 80).

Excerpt out of 19 pages


How Does Gender Affect Pupils' Behaviour and Development? Gender-related Heterogeneity in the EFL-Classroom
University of Cologne
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
heterogeneity, gender, EFL, EFL-classroom
Quote paper
Anonymous, 2018, How Does Gender Affect Pupils' Behaviour and Development? Gender-related Heterogeneity in the EFL-Classroom, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: How Does Gender Affect Pupils' Behaviour and Development? Gender-related Heterogeneity in the EFL-Classroom

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free