Date of Award
Doctor of Education (EdD)
Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
Cynthia C. Reyes
The existence of a persistent gender gap in literacy achievement, and particularly in writing, is not in dispute: boys trail girls in every assessment at state, national, and international levels. Yet although this basic fact is not in dispute, nearly everything else concerning the gender gap in literacy achievement--its causes, consequences, and potential solutions--remains hotly contested, particularly in the public and professional discourse. Scholarly research offers insights that frequently challenge the prevailing public discourse, but this research has been conducted primarily in the U.K., Australia, and Canada, leaving the experiences of U.S. students largely unexplored. Herein lies the problem: an inadequate (or worse, inaccurate) understanding of the context, causes, and realities of boys' writing experiences can lead to proposed policy and pedagogy solutions that range from the ineffective to the potentially harmful, with unintended consequences for both boys and girls that may worsen the underlying conditions implicated in boys' literacy underachievement. Equity demands that we address, in particular, the poor writing achievement of boys of low socioeconomic backgrounds. It is important that policy-makers consider the question of "which boys," as the writing achievement gap is far more dramatic for boys from a background of poverty than for middle-class boys.
This study employed qualitative methods and a phenomenological lens to explore the writing experiences, attitudes, and beliefs of 21 young men currently enrolled in four colleges and universities in two New England states, including first-year and senior-year college students. The data collected from interviews and writing samples contradicted a number of the generalizations about boys prevalent in the public discourse, and offered a more nuanced view of the role of gender in boys' writing experiences than that presented in much of the scholarly discourse. The results of this study also challenge a number of commonly held beliefs about boys' and young men's writing motivations and preferences. The study's findings can contribute toward the ultimate goal of improving educators' and policy-makers' responses to the gender gap in writing by offering a more nuanced and accurate understanding of the writing experiences of boys and young men.
Number of Pages
Disenhaus, Nancy, "Boys, Writing, And The Literacy Gender Gap: What We Know, What We Think We Know" (2015). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 330.