Topic 1 Teachers’ assumptions and expectations, regarding gender

A lot of research has been conducted on teachers’ perception of gender roles and on gender stereotypes and bias.

Teachers describe girls as: quiet, sensitive, obedient, cooperative, agreeable, attentive, diligent, studious, good students, a better fit for school,  the ones that try harder and get better grades (compared to their male peers) and easier to work with or manipulative, when they deviate from “gender appropriate ways”.

Teachers describe boys as: active, sportive, competitive, independent, aggressive, tough -with no traces of fear or sadness-, logical, confident, capable leaders, creative, smart but a bit lazy when it comes to schoolwork and more likely to misbehave.

Teachers tend to connect the high achievement of girls with effort or even luck, while the boys’ high achievement relates to “natural ability”. Them who attribute students’ success to ability may have higher expectations for them, whereas the ones who attribute students’ success to effort may be less confident in their ability to succeed.

Even though girls are thought of as better students compared to boys, they are perceived as less likely to have academic potential. Moreover, teachers seem to tolerate possible girls’ depression, anxiety, withdrawal and lack of participation as this is a “natural girls’ experience”.

One of the most common assumptions that teachers have and form their expectations of their students, is that areas like language, arts and social sciences are more feminine, while others like STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines are male.

Mathematics: A usual generalisation that is made claims that girls are “bad” -meaning less competent- at math, while boys are “bad” at reading and writing. There is a long-standing debate on whether this gap arises from biologically based differences in brain functioning or culture and social conditioning, with the latter gaining ground in recent years.

Sports: Sports are also considered a male domain and as a result girls are assumed to be less athletically competent than boys. Certain sports are still viewed as “boys” or “girls” appropriate, and therefore many teachers/coaches may direct their students’ choices, by encouraging them to participate in different sports.

Boys are stereotypically assumed to perform worse than girls in their overall school achievement, framing them as the ones with the lower grades or the ones that are more likely to drop out of school.


teachers may form generalised expectations that girls are better than boys at school.