Gender differences and writing : self-efficacy beliefs, attitudes, preferences and perceptions : thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy (Education) Massey University
This present research investigated gender differences in students' writing self-efficacy beliefs, writing attitudes, writing preferences and gendered perceptions about writing in the New Zealand School Certificate English classroom. The aim of this study was to determine whether boys and girls differ in their writing self-beliefs, writing attitudes, writing preferences and gendered perceptions about writing, and to identify factors which may adversely contribute to the negative affect and poor performance of boys in writing in the English classroom at year 11. Participants were 215 students from 10 School Certificate English classes, attending eight secondary schools in the Manawatu, Hawkes Bay and Wellington. A questionnaire was developed and included selected items from the Daly and Miller Writing Apprehension test and the Shell et al., Writing Skills Self-Efficacy Scale. Qualitative data comprised students' comments on their writing attitudes and beliefs. These were included to enrich the interpretation of the questionnaire data. The results indicated a gender difference in writing attitudes, with boys reporting a higher level of negative writing satisfaction, and less writing enjoyment in the English classroom. Gender differences were also indicated in terms of the writing genres boys and girls prefer to engage in. Boys and girls reported distinct differences for their first and second preferred writing options. No significant gender differences were reported in students' self-efficacy beliefs or predicted confidence judgements to perform specific writing competencies. No significant gender differences were reported in students' perceptions about writing as an inherently gender-biased activity. Results indicated the students in this study did not perceive writing to be an inherently feminine or masculine activity. However, they did indicate an awareness of differential outcomes for boys' and girls' writing in the way in which their respective discourses were regarded and valued by others. The findings are discussed in terms of gender-based attitudinal writing differences and writing preferences. The possibility that the types of writing girls prefer hold more value in the English classroom and in School Certificate, and the possibility that this could be contributing adversely to the writing satisfaction of many boys, is discussed. An examination of qualitative data and frequency of response to individual questions indicates that students expect the writing of boys and girls to be differentially valued in the English classroom and in School Certificate. Finally, the need to examine if boys' writing dissatisfactions and negative attitudes in English are connected with the way writing elements and activities have been pedagogically and ideologically constructed, is considered. Further research focusing on how writing is presented and measured in the English classroom and beyond is recommended.