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The gifted and hard working. Gendered discourses of study performances in secondary school
University of Borås, School of Education and Behavioural Science.
2014 (English)Conference paper, (Refereed)
Sustainable development
The content falls within the scope of Sustainable Development
Abstract [en]

Sweden, as well as most other European countries has undergone major changes in a market oriented direction during the last decades. This has paved the way for a culture of individualism and “competitive performativity” (Ball, 2003, p. 219). Contemporary research points to growing differences in achievement between schools and students, including those between genders (National Agency for Education, 2012; Ringrose, 2007). This paper aims to analyse the discursive understandings of study performance and gender among secondary school students, and in particular, their relations to teacher views and classroom responses. The theoretical focus is on masculinities, femininities, local gender regimes (Connell, 1996; Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005) and performativity (Ball, Maguire & Braun, 2012; Jeffrey & Troman, 2011). Method The paper draws on field studies in three secondary schools in Sweden. The study is part of a larger research project, Achievement and gender. On teaching, youth groups and local conditions (2011-2014), financed by the Swedish Research Council. The overall project explores various discourses of gender and achievement in student peer groups and in various teaching contexts and boys’ and girls’ conceptions of the meanings of academic achievement for future lives. An ethnographic approach is used, relying on class room observations, informal conversations and semi structured interviews in three grade 9 classes (students 15-16 years old) at three different schools in Sweden. The selected schools are located in a city centre, a suburb area and in a rural area, representing different socio-economic areas and different levels of educational achievement. In all, 70 students (genders equally represented) and their teachers participated in the study. A compact form of ethnography was conducted (Jeffrey & Troman 2004), including approximately one month intensive phase of field work at each school. The empirical data also included rating statistics. Expected Outcomes The findings indicate the presence of intertwined and gendered discourses on performance and knowledge. One is stressing everyone’s equal chance of success if only they make an effort and study hard, and the other presenting ‘real’ knowledge as related to ‘natural talent’. The latter, which is connected to a ’laid back’ attitude towards schooling, is highly valued and generally ascribed to boys. The importance of studying is not denied by the boys, but put in perspective of other (valuable) social activities and relations. The analyses also indicates that the ‘anti-school cultures’ in the study might be seen as to represent cultures of talent (cf Nyström, 2012). Girls’ higher grades are, on the other hand, often devalued and related to hard work or ‘swotting’, although seemingly adhering to demands on individual achievement. If anything, knowledge based on ‘swotting’ might be suspected as attempts to cover up for lack of real talent. Teachers appear somewhat ambivalent about (girls’) hard work. There are occasional mentioning of girls’ strivings being too high and that they might be better off to realize their limitations, as well as ’jokes’ and ridicule of those deemed to worry too much about their performances. References Arnesen, A., Lahelma, E. & Öhrn, E. (2008) Travelling discourses on gender and education: The case of boys´ underachievement, Nordisk pedagogik, 28(1), 1-14. Ball, S.J. (2003). The teacher’s soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education Policy,18(2), 215–228. Ball, S. J., Maguire, M. & Braun, A. (2012). How schools do policy – policy enactments in secondary schools. New York : Routledge. Jeffrey, B. & Troman, G. (2004). Time for ethnography. British Educational Research Journal, 30(4), 535–548 Jeffrey, B. & Troman, G. (2011). The construction of performative identities. European Educational Research Journal 10 (4),484-501 Connell, RW. (1996). Teaching the boys: New research on masculinity, and gender strategies for schools. Teachers College Records, 98(2), 206-235. Cambridge: Polity Press. Connell, RW., & Messerschmidt, J.W. (2005). (2005). Hegemonic masculinity. Rethinking the concept. Gender & Society, 19(6), 829-859. Nyström, A-S. (2012). Att synas och lära utan att synas lära: En studie om underprestation och privilegierade unga mäns identitetsförhandlingar i gymnasieskolan. Uppsala Universitet. Ringrose, J. (2007). Successful girls? Complicating post-feminist, neoliberal discourses of educational achievement and gender equality. Gender and Education, 19(4), 471-489. National Agency for Education (2012). En beskrivning av slutbetygen i grundskolan våren 2012. PM från Enheten för utbildningsstatistik.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014.
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Teacher Education and Education Work
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hb:diva-7222Local ID: 2320/14211OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hb-7222DiVA: diva2:887931
Conference
Paper presented at the ECER-conference, Porto 2-5 September, 2014
Available from: 2015-12-22 Created: 2015-12-22 Last updated: 2017-02-02Bibliographically approved

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