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Adolescent Boys’ Underachievement in Reading

Info: 8308 words (33 pages) Dissertation
Published: 9th Dec 2019

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Tagged: EducationTeaching

Adolescent Boys’ Underachievement in Reading


This paper considers the many academic researchers who have argued that the debate over boys’ ‘underachievement’ in reading represents a ‘global panic’ and this focus has shifted increasingly to boys.  This deficit in boys’ achievement in reading is an international phenomenon according to Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study.  The importance surrounding the ‘global panic’ of boys’ underachievement in reading addresses the significant differences between the achievement of boys and girl. Moreover, current literature suggests boys exhibit lower levels of reading engagement and reading achievement in high school.

Educators and policy makers need to further explore the various teaching strategies, resources and challenges teachers use and encounter when promoting reading engagement amongst their male students in the classroom. The findings from this paper emphases the importance motivation has in engaging boys to read and the instructional strategies to ensure that schools can better prepare boys and to offer effective instruction in reducing the risk these boys of being let down by our education system.

Introduction – introduction outlining the scope and treatment.

What is known from decades of educational research, high stakes testing, reading practices and literacy standards in Australia is that boys reading achievement is an area of disappointment and struggle for many adolescent boys.  Adolescent boy’s reading underachievement has been and continues to obtain significant attention globally by educational policymakers and researchers.  Concerns about boys’ reading capabilities are consistently highlighted in national and international testing programmes such as National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2013). In addition a review of literature reveals a number of common factors have been found to contribute to this decline in achievement levels (West et al. (2012).  Such factors include it is not simply a gender issue but rather teacher perceptions of boys ability, curriculum text resources, socio-economic factors, family support, student self efficacy and teaching practices (Hempel-Jorgensen et al, 2017).  While it is beyond the scope of this paper to explore all of these factors in detail, one of the most prevalent factors in reading achievement for boys is motivation.

This narrative essay will identify three key factors in the boys’ high school classrooms, which claim adolescent boys to be positioned as disengaging and underachieving in reading. These factors are:

  • What are the challenges in the way reading is taught to boys in high school?
  •  What impact has this had on boys’ achievement in reading?
  • What effect will the use of motivation strategies have on their academic performance in reading?

Nature of Literature underpinning the Project

The acquisition of reading skills is essential for any individual to gain understanding and more importantly to succeed in life. Sadly boys have been found consistently less able to achieve in reading than girls across the globe (Mullis et al., 2012).  Zambo  and  Brozo  (2009)   reflect   that   since   the   early   1930’s   there   has   been   increasing   evidence   of   boys far outnumbering girls in remedial reading  classes  (Holbrook,  1988;  Gambell  &  Hunter,  1999;  Rutter  et  al., 2004). Unfortunately, it is boys who make up the majority of students who struggle with reading.

Teaching to read is complex and there is a growing sense of widespread legitimate concern over the achievement levels in reading of adolescent boys. Over the decades despite the high-quality research evidence and the many case studies held in Australian co-educational high schools, there has been a lack of improvement for adolescent boys in reading (Buckingham et al, 2013).  The ability to read opens many opportunities to succeed in other subject areas of school.  Indeed once boys received exemplary teaching and effective and timely intervention, they will engage and achieve in reading to become proficient and successful readers.  The problem is that too many adolescent boys are not receiving exemplary instruction nor effective methods for teaching reading  (Buckingham et al, 2013).

Zambo (2007) indicated a disturbing number of boys are being diagnosed with learning disabilities and are becoming withdrawn from reading in schools.  An alarming three times as many boys are placed into learning disability programs as girls, and 70–80% percent of students found to lack motivation in school are boys (Bozack, 2011). The New South Wales Inquiry into Boys Education Report (O’Doherty,1994)  found that more boys attend special reading classes than girls and more boys .  Rowe & Rowe (1999) has identified boys as being ‘at-risk’ In reading classes due to their poor progress in literacy and 20 per cent of the referrals to paediatricians relates to boys with poor performance. According to

Brozo, “boys are three to five times more likely to have learning or reading disabilities,

boys in elementary through high school perform significantly lower than girls on standardized measures and boys are 50% more likely to be retained” (Brozo, 2010, p. 12).

There is considerable international evidence that illustrates boys’ underachievement in reading is a significant concern for schools across the globe (Clarke & Burke, 2012).  The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) studies is an international standardised education research study of 15-year-olds in reading literacy. It is administrated three-yearly to more than seventy countries taking part in PISA 2015.  It is clear from the international data that there is legitimate concern of boys poor performance in reading literacy scores in comparison to girls.  In Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, on average, boys do not attain the baseline level of proficiency in reading. Boys do not perform as well as girls on the reading comprehension and reading literacy tests (OECD,2018).  The gender gap in reading in favour of girls narrowed by 12 points between 2009 and 2015 (OECD,2018).

In 2015, Australian PISA results showed girls performed significantly better than boys in reading literacy at age 15 years old. In 2015, Australian average reading literacy score for males significantly declined by 25 points. It showed girls outperform boys in reading in virtually all countries and economies (Thomson et al, 2016). With this approach, many researchers have sought to determine the possible causes for the decline boys experience in their reading achievement during the high school years.   The question of what causes boys to disengage in reading during high school has not been specifically answered, however boys who are at risk fail to acquire the adequate skills needed to actively participate in high school classrooms and later in their lives in society.

Reading achievement is a pivotal component that impacts on an adolescent boys’

ability to read.  These results of high stake testing have without doubt resulted in the underachievement of boys in reading on an international scale.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), assesses Amercian students performance in both public and private schools in reading at grades 4, 8, and 12 across the nation. In 2017 the results were overall at grade 8, male students average reading score was 262 and female students 275 and at grade 12 male students average reading score was (282) and female students (292), (NAEP, 2018).  In a UK study by the National Literacy Trust survey of UK teachers, 76% of boys in their school did not do as well in reading as girls. By age 13, the gap has increased to 12 percentage points, and by GCSE, for acheivement at grades A to C in English, the gap is 14 percentage points (National Literacy Trust, 2017).  In a Canadian study the Canadian Council of Ministers of Education (CMEC,) 2015 reported gender differences in literacy at two age levels: 13‐ year‐ old and 16‐ year old. It was reported that girls consistently outperformed boys in reading test scores on both year levels. The highest difference in favour of 16 year old girls by 26 points (CMEC,2015). These statistics are disturbing, particularly because adolescent boys reading is at or below grade level in all reports.

Standardized assessments are often disconnected from “what real readers do and achieve in their lives” and are often viewed as something only done for school purposes (Smith & Wilhelm 2006). Boys want activities to be contextualized, connected to their lives and to provide immediate feedback of their success; when these conditions are not met, boys are more likely than girls to disengage (Smith & Wilhelm 2006).  The account of adolescent boys’ lower scores in standardized tests is a result of their disinterest and resistance in the reading classroom because tests do not contain material of interest to boys.  Test do not reflect boys’ life experience nor their culture therefore boys are met with resistance (Lenters 2006).  Tests that lack a sense of purpose to boys will reduce their motivation to achieve well (Cook 2005; Martino 2003; Wilhelm & Smith 2005).

Global assessments results indicate the reading demand of adolescent boys to gain proficiency compared to girls at all grade levels.  Given the global importance of reading achievement and assessments one might explain how best to respond to this widespread global panic of adolescent boys underachievement and deficiency in reading. Blair and Sanford (2004) found that boys are resisting these traditional school reading and “transforming it into something more personally engaging, meaningful, humorous, active and purposeful” (p. 452). Additionally, researchers have found that boys participate in many reading activities outside of the classroom that include print, as well as media and electronic technologies; activities not often offered by high schools (Smith & Wilhelm 2002; Blair & Sanford, 2004; Cook 2005).

Internationally and in Australia results from several studies report that boys perform much lower in reading than girls (Watson, Kehler & Martino, 2010; Stevens, 2011; Merisuo-Storm & Soininen, 2012,) and many adolescent boys regard reading literacy in high school  as “un-masculine” and thus disengage from reading (Merisuo-Storm, 2012).  High school teachers of reading share their extensive knowledge of rich authentic reading texts, the importance to predict, analyze, synthesize, evaluate, critique texts and questioning strategies to become successful in reading.  However adolescent boys believe that high school reading and reading texts has nothing to do with their interests such as video games, sport, media and therefore do not engage or achieve with reading (Merisuo-Storm, 2012).

Some research suggests that the increased concern of boys’ underachiement in reading is a direct result of a traditional teaching practices stemming from an educational agenda that has focused on the needs of girls at the expense of boys and a feminist movement which over the past decade has challenged gender roles both at home and in the workplace (Wallace 2008; Queensland Department of Education, Training & Arts 2008). Educators that don’t understand boys’ traits, classrooms and curriculum that are more accommodating for girls and a lack of male teachers and role models are cited as evidence of an educational system that has ignored the needs of boys (McDonald 2007; Queensland Department of Education, Training & Arts 2008). This position is reflected in current policies of right-wing politicians who are using recent test results to promote and maintain hegemonic masculine stereotypes and regain the power and status that has privileged white middle class men in the past (Wallace 2008).

Adolescent boys require the need to be multi-literate; engaging with non-print forms of reading materials and technology as they are proven to be necessary skills for future success in society as print forms are for school success (Martino, 2003; Lenters, 2006; Blair & Sanford, 2004). In order to motivate boys to engage in classroom literacy activities, schools will need to broaden their definition of literacy and incorporate methods to include the literacy practices of adolescent boys outside of the classroom (Lenters, 2006; Smith & Wilhem 2002; Martino 2003; Sanford & Blair 2004; Fu, Lamme & Fang; 2003).

Given the current attention to the issues surrounding the way reading is taught to high school boys, many classrooms lack the opportunity that instill the desire for boys to read.  According to Brozo, “boys are three to five times more likely to have learning or reading disabilities,boys in elementary through high school perform significantly lower than girls on standardized measures and boys are 50% more likely to be retained” (Brozo, 2010, p. 12).  Gambrell, (2011) acknowlegdes that teachers are frustrated and even admit to failure of their ineffective practice to engage boys in reading. This highlights the need to address how teachers implement reading practices in their classrooms to support and improve male responsiveness and motivation.

Teachers implementing literacy activities and teaching strategies are finding it challenging and limited in many secondary classes (Fisher & Ivey, 2005). Teachers tend to be sceptical of one-size-fits-all and quick-fix programs (Alvermann, 2002) although Spor and Schneider (1999) conclude that different reading strategies are not widely known nor used by many high school teachers.  It is understandable with all the responsibilities placed on teachers and preparing students for high stakes testing and accountability of content teaching, that teachers may become reluctant to add motivational strategies to their routine (Lenters, 2006).   Not surprisingly, this is not winning boys to engage effectively in the traditional kinds of instruction such as lecturing to students.

Some literacy methods that teachers employ seem not to work well for whatever reason and do not favour adolescent boys with reading difficulties.  A significant body of research confirms that gender stereotyping impacts negatively on adolescent boys in terms of everything from reading achievement to self-esteem ( Lynn and Mikk, 2009; Martin and Ruble, 2010)  It is believed that teachers who have traditional views with respect of gender roles are less motivated to read to boys in turn having a negative impact on boys reading achievement (Martinot et al. (2012).  Several studies found secondary school students to conceive of subjects related to reading as “for girls”  (Hannover and Kessels, 2002; Colley and Comber, 2003; Plante et al., 2009; Steffens and Jelenec, 2011).  Boys with reading difficulties are often segregated according to their ability. These strategies exacerbate their position in reading as they are more likely to fall further behind than their peers.

Current research suggest many boys disengage in reading because they see themselves as poor readers and the inability to have meaningful and relevant learning for them.  Adolescent boys engage in reading when learning tasks are visual, logical and analytical approaches, however it is not adequately catered for in regular classrooms.  Most reseach concludes that strategies have to be based on high quality teaching that attends to the individual learning and social needs of boys through a, supportive and stimulating learning environment. The focus needs to be primarily on individual need not the assumed needs of groups. Boys’ poor reading links with poor engagement in learning and the risk of leaving school earl

Despite the structured nature and expectations of the classroom, reading opportunities are needed for boys to choose what and how they read in order to provide a positive self image and proficient readers (National Endowment for the Arts, 2004).  As Smith and Wilhelm (2002, pg 24) maintained, “readings that boys enjoy have a purpose, whether it is getting information, figuring out how something works or keeping track of sports statistics, boys will attempt, immerse and engage in the task they like”.  The impact of not allowing boys to choose their texts is failing to stimulate and sustain their interest to build confidence in reading.  Traditional teachers continue to bore boys with definitions and drills in grammar, vocabulary and speech work. This content/knowledge oriented driven teaching is still very much present in today’s high school. It is the view of Smith and Wilhelm (2002) that this is especially true for traditional teachers to use more words to teach and prefer to use traditional ways of teaching because they are familiar with, which do not aid boys at all.  As  Zanniello 2015, pg 5290 states, “The male brain is better suited for symbols, abstractions, diagrams, pictures, and objects moving through space than for the monotony of words”.

There is also growing evidence to show that teachers are affected by the challenges of over enrolment, teacher – student ratio and lack of teaching and learning resources (Creswell, 2002). This leads to poor classroom practice which makes it all difficult for teachers to teach and support their learners.  Often teachers feel stressed due to curriculum and standard pressures that need to be taught and less time is on finding literature that boys’ can relate too.  Teachers that follow a strict classroom regime, lack the flexibility to deal with the diversity and complexity of real life situations that teaching reading presents in a classroom. This structured class environment can hinder boys own reading success because it cannot provide a flexible and supportive environment to learn.  Therefore, it is clear that poor attitude of teachers toward innovation and use of instructional media or materials in teaching reading leads to poor performance among adolescent boys.  Interestingly, Silver & Perini, (2010) have identified that teachers who create more engaging lessons encounter fewer or almost no behavioural problems from boys in their classrooms.

The problem is in the way reading is taught.  Boys are influenced culturally by activities such as sports, metalwork, woodwork, music and unfortunately reading is perceived as feminine. Addis et al., 2010; Watson, Kehler, & Martino, (2010) explains that this subtle “influence of society on boys can affect and  convey dislike or avoid engaging in activities perceived to be feminine. Three subject areas repeatedly cited by elementary, middle, and high school age boys to be feminine subjects include reading, writing, and fine arts education”.  Martino (2010), suggest strong male role models could help curb boys interest and enthusiasm towards these subjects. A research by Spence (In Press) claims that in the early grades when reading is developing, boys have more female teachers and this does impact on boys view of reading. He declares that “All of these individuals have a great amount of influence on boys’ reading habits, but all of them are female. Boys feel a pressure to be masculine and not feminine, and this lack of role models only makes reading appear more feminine than masculine”(……). These reading experiences are discriminated in relation to gender and have negatively impacted on boys learning. (Martino & Berrill, 2003),

Motivating adolescent boys to achieve reading achievement is one of the top challenges of high school teachers (Daisey, 2009).  Daisey (2009) believes to promote motivation in the classroom environment, teachers are the most important source. Bintz (1997) found that secondary teachers had four main views about boys adolescents’ reading struggles: “that boys reading frustration is a culmination of years without reading success, that secondary teachers are not prepared to deal with reading issues, that textbooks do not meet boys needs, and that other people, such as elementary teachers and parents, contribute to the problem.”(cited in Daisey, 2009, pg 168).  Bintz (1997) concurs and believes that teachers would gain better insights into their adolescent boys if they engage in more experiences with reading.

Motivation to read is defined as one’s primary drive for wanting to read (Wigfield, A., Gladstone, J., & Turci, L. (2016).  Common research findings suggest researchers cite motivation as a key factor in the creation and permanency of the gender gap in reading at middle and high school (Kirkland, 2011; Fisher & Frey, 2012; Marinak & Gambrell, 2010).  Reading motivation is one of the most alarming issues facing high school teachers today. What contributes to the decline in some adolescent boy’s motivation? There is a variety of teaching practices that researchers and educators have discussed that contribute to this decline. Wigfield, A., Gladstone, J., & Turci, L. (2016, pg 249) state that  “Due to an increase in educational accountability at different levels, school administrators require teachers to implement more formal and frequent evaluations of their students. Practices that emphasize social comparison and encourage excessive competition among children (e.g., class ranking, spelling bees) may lead them to focus on how their skills compare to others.”

Such practices faced by teachers can decrease the motivation particularly for adolescent boy’s who are at risk of underachieving. Recognsing this overwhelming decline practical advice is needed to help high school teachers to accomplish success with boys in their classrooms.

Motivation strategies plays an important part in the reading classroom. If adolescent boys are not motivated to read by choice they will not engage fully in reading at all and they will not comprehend what is being read (Wigfield, Guthrie, Tonks, & Perencevich, 2004).  Gambrell (2011) shows that motivation is a powerful contributor to reading achievement and to best support a boys reading is to engage and motivate him in every teaching and learning activity in the classroom. Concerns that motivation strategies are not a priority in the classroom has emerged in discussion in most research (Senn, 2012).  Teachers are keenly aware of the limitations on what can be done within existing classroom constraints.  This is an area where despite the best intentions, there seems to be a widely held view by the community that the teachers can and should do better.

Warrington and Younger’s (2005) research shows clearly the link between motivation to read and reading skills. It seems that for some boys, the desire and motivation to read needs to be explicitly encouraged to move from beyond passive compliance to meaningful learning. Understanding how to motivate boys is a crucial skill that high school teachers should aspire to attain; however, teachers often miss opportunities to capitalize on the strengths of those they teach by not tapping in to what excites them (Galvan, 2013).  Disengaged adolescent boys often receive many behavioural and instructional interventions which are strongly related to reading difficulties and poor engagaement (Prior, et al., 2000).

What motivates adolescent boys to read and will motivation strategies help them to achieve.  Prominent theorists believe that motivation focuses on one’s beliefs, values and goals as the main drive for one’s motivation (Wigfield et al, 2015).  When adolescent boys believe they are successful at reading they will do better.  American researchers have also debated the many ways in which boy’s value reading activities, such as the importance of reading to the individual, how useful it may be or whether they are interested in the activity (Wigfield et al, 2015). Guthrie, Klauda, and Morrison (2012) found that by the time boy’s reach middle school their reading motivation decreases, often resulting in not engaging boys in the way that is needed.

Researchers believe there is enough evidence to show that motivation is a powerful contributor to reading achievement and the importance of giving consideration to provide boys with reading texts that are appealing to them plays an important part in motivating and engaging them in their reading development (Galvan, 2013).  Disengaged and unmotivated males do not fulfil their full ability to achieve. When teachers are prepared to engage with their male students and have confidence to develop an integrated approach to reading, the motivation and standard of reading of boys will improve (Younger & Warrington, 2005). This highlights that motivation and engagement plays a more significant role in the effort boy’s put into reading.

It is clear that reading motivation for many adolescent boys’ is an ongoing area of remediation and stagnant growth.  The problem is some motivation theorist argue that motivation changes depending on the activity, specific level with specific questions (Wigfield et al., 2004).  There is evidence to support that adolescent boys respond different levels of intrinsic motivation for reading than they do for mathematics (Gottfried,1990).  This supports the idea that boys who perceive reading is difficult may be less willing to attempt the task or put any effort in it.  This may be due to fear of failing at reading or the risk of appearing less able to their peers.  Teaching strategies such as books of high interest, student choice, peer-to-peer and student-teacher discussions of some books, and explicit instruction of reading motivation show signs of positively effects on adolescent boys’.  Because adolescent boys possess different reading qualities it is important that opportunities are given to them to show and express their individual reading preferences (Littlefield, 2011).

If the goal is to raise adolescent boys’ reading academic performance in high school then teachers must imploy motivation strategies specific to them.  Interest and choice is also an important factor for adolescent boys reading.  When adolescent boys are not successful in reading they often lose motivation to read. Therefore it is up to the teachers to help and gain confidence and motivation to enhance their reading (Frey and Finch, 2012). Reserchers have identified interest and choice as a key motivator for adolescent males to make them able to assimilate on a deeper level (Blair and Sanford, 2004).

High school teachers should offer text choices to their males students as it, “offer more choices and explore the meanings of different kinds of texts with particular powers to engage and express boys” (Michael Smith and Jeffery Wilhelm (2002), p. 186). They also conclude that “Boys who see the relationship between the text read and their current lives are more likely to be engaged and to respond to the text” (2002, p. 17). Brozo (2002) also agree with Smith and Wilhelm (2002) suggesting that traditional books are disengaging reading for boys in high school.

Furthermore Martinez (2010) research found that it is essential to have text that adolesdcent boys can relate to. He declares that when boys are given the choice to choose books after their own interest, they change their view and are more likely to engage in the reading involved (Martinez, 2010). Henry, Lagos and Berndt (2012), also agree with the importance of choice and interest for adolescent boys when choosing books. They argue books must “reflect an image of themselves, make them laugh and focus on more than emotions” (2012, p. 145), and enable them to engage. Their conclusion is more teachers need to imploy these motivation strategies to introduce a variety of different genres, authors and books to increase their interest in reading.

Analysis of relevant Literature –   literature reviewed to identify the outcomes (findings) of past research and theory to respond to each research question in turn.

What are the challenges in the way reading is taught to boys in high school?

Much of the recent literature and studies on the underachievement of adolescent boys’ in reading do not tell the full story about boys’ reading abilities and practices (Smith and Wilhelm,2002). Most research, assessment and critical analysis of the issue of boys‘ reading acheievement in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States are of quantative nature and all focus on statistical data based on the inquiry of achievement scores. Theses well publicized and debate results obtain from the assessements have incited much criticism as they represent an attempt to gain understandings of the causes of boys underachievement in reading (Deibler,2018).

Research findings state that these tests focus on measuring “students’ capacity to engage with narrow forms of print based literate practice” and failed to measure “competence and skill in navigating alternative digital literacies” often preferred by boys (Martino 2003, p.10; Sanford 2005/2006, p. 305). They did not include the genres that many boys are involved in outside of school such as popular culture, electronic technologies and multimedia (Sanford, Blair & Chodzinski 2007; Alloway 2000). A critical examination of boys’ reading achievement must focus on boys interest or choice otherwise adolescent boys will continue to disengage.

While international high staking testing provides information from scores, set in a quantitative result of achievement in traditional forms, they do not accurately reflect the many reading practices in the lives of adolescent boys today (Martino, 2003; Blair & Sanford, 2004; Smith & Wilhelm, 2002). Watson, Martino, and Watson (2010) warns that these simple explanations conceal factors such as “poverty, language factors, classroom practices, and family influences that cause some boys to lag behind

some girls and it is important to understand that not all boys are at risk and that their

poor performance is not inevitable” (p. 357).  They recommend making boys learning to read purposeful and engaging to their needs to better understand and appreciate their insights.  By doing this teachers discover what inspires adolescent boys to read rather than instructional teaching and analyzing the curriculum (Fisher and Frey,2012). Reading lessons are not accommodating to boys learning styles.

Regardless of the test results, it is important that schools use quantitative and qualitative data to determine which boys are struggling and why they are struggling in order to focus on improving school practices so they are more inclusive of these students. It is important to note as Martino (2008) stresses that “Not all boys are underachieving” Pg 8.   He states that teachers need to address the issue correctly by identifying which boys require help with reading and what’s the best help that teachers can provide (Martino, 2008).  However Brozo5 points out, “To propose broader gender specific recommendations for reading literacy improvement is to risk another form of sexual stereotyping” (p. 18).  Research suggest addressing boys’ underachievement requires a more productive approach to addressing equity and social justice in schools and less steroypical conceptions. (Martino 2008).

The problem is research rarely points out is how reading teachers can combat the issues boys are having in the classroom. How our classroom practices relate to boys for example;  book choice, dealing with traditional teaching practices, meaningful social experiences, how boys’ use reading in their ‘everyday’ and what conditions promote all of these (Smith and Wilhelm, 2002).  This has led researchers to argue that achievement scores are limited in their interpretation, perhaps even biased and do not explain boys’ reading abilities and teaching practices (Blair and Sanford, 2004).

When it comes to:  What impact has this had on boys’ achievement in reading?

Dealing with boys reading achievement, many sources claim reading has declined because boys have been resisting and opposing to adapt to the teacher based practices that have impeded their learning to read  (Rodrigo, Greenberg, and Segal (2014) cited in  Massoud & Sudic, 2014).
 Research findings have found that too many high school teachers are unaware of, or mistaken about, specific strategies and practices that actually motivate their male students to read. What motivates one group of boys may not motivate another. Content-area teachers are often unaware that although they may not have been trained in teaching reading strategy and may feel as though teaching reading is not their job, it is an expectation that could largely be met by the implementation of motivational strategies. When teachers do not employ motivational strategies, they miss an opportunity to engage students in reading, ultimately contributing to the decreasing rates of reading in high schools.

Research findings suggest there are many factors that have impacted negatively on adolescent boys in reading.  The needs of adolescent boys are being ignored in some classrooms and so many of them see reading practices as boring, meaningless, and passive (Blair and Sanford, 2004).  This especially has been crucial for those boys who are disengaged with reading, who experience difficulty in learning to read and who are underachieving in reading literacy.  Teachers who demonstrate sterotyped practices, fail to tailor their lessons to suit boys purposes, and/or neglect to provide a positive reading experience for adolescent boys, Studies have found that during reading classes in high school, adolecents boys are more disruptive and aggressive and less attentive in class (Wiens, 2006). These characteristics of boys conflict with what teachers deem to be ‘good’ qualities needed for successful reading.  As a consequence, boys are more likely to be treated in a negative way by teachers (Bugler,McGeown,St Clair-Thompson, 2016). If adolescent boys experience failure in reading, this is likely to elicit negative beliefs in their ability.  Teachers’ perception of boys particularly related to gender and ability plays an important factor on their teaching practices for reading.

Failing to assign reading work and tasks that are achievable for adolescent boys can negatively impact their self esteem and success.  Brozo (2008) claim that these boys must have a chance to attain reading goals in order to achieve some success. He recommends that student-teacher should mutually agree on evaluation, methods and allowing negotiations between the male student and teacher and flexibility on due dates. The fact that boys are directed away from their choice of reading texts to a more informational and disciplinary text in high school can also have a negative affect on boys engagement with reading (Brozo, 2005).

Research tells us that it is not the gender of the teacher, but rather pedagogical approaches and respectful relationships that are key to student achievement (Martino,2008). Teachers thus have an important role to play in promoting less stereotypical conceptions of what it means to be a boy.  In 2009 a study authorized by the International Boys’ Schools Coalition (2009), interviewed 200 schools worldwide and collected data to over 1500 male adolescents and 100 teachers. The findings from the study concluded that teachers in boys’ school enhance their pedagogy and modify their lessons to fit the boys’ interests and needs (Reichert and Hawley, 2009). This approach has been very important to adolescent boys’ in transforming and sustaining improvement in reading achievement.

Research question: What effect will the use of motivation strategies have on their academic performance in reading?

Recent literature findings on motivation strategies and reading achievement strongly recommend qualitative research into the relationships between motivation theory and more unbiased reading behaviors and performances (Brooks & Young, 2011; Guthrie, Wigfield, Humenick, Perencevich, Taboada, & Barbosa, 2006; Guthrie, Laurel, Hoa, Wigfield, Tonks, Humenick, & Littles, 2007; DeNaeghel et al., 2012; Law, 2009; Melekoglu, 2011; Neugebauer, 2013, cited in Diebler, 2018).

Motivating and engaging adolescent boys with reading acitivities and successful achievement in schools depend on many factors.  By granting adolescent boys book choices of interest to them they become motivated to learn and retain the information (Holland, 2006) Giving boys freedom to choose will improve their learning to read.

Another factor is single sex grouping in co-ed classroom. Some high school teachers found this strategy most useful. Boys are grouped together and working on topics of books of interest to them and school work are aligned to their needs and interest resulting in successful achievement (Holland, 2006).  Teaching practices that help promote boys learning to be more meaningful towards boys interest will increase academic performance in reading.

According to Brozo (2010) some adolescent boys have been disinterested, disengaged and detached from reading for a long time. These boys will not meet their full reading potential.

It is argued that “without motivation there is no learning”( Lavoie, 2007)  so teachers need to get boys involved in reading making it relevant to boys.  A reading task that actively incorporations boys interest will encourage intrinsic motivation to read and ultimately lead to increased reading achievement (Smith & Wilhelm,2002).

High school teachers need to be able to determine what will motivate their male students to read. The first step in this differentiation of teaching is discovering perceptions particular boy groups possess in regard to reading. When dealing with adolescent boys’ instrinic motivation, Fisher and Frey (2012) designed a rigours ninth grade English curriculum which incorporated reading.  This curriuculm was intended to effectively engage adolescent boys to read daily. Prior to the study these boys lack confidence in their ability to read and in their reading capability. Fisher and Frey (2012) stated that struggling adolescent boys are likely to be extrinsically motivated than intrinsically motivated.  The findings revealed that creating a diverse teaching approach, tailoring towards boys interest in mind and learning, adolescent boys were intrinsically motivated to learn and engaged during the lessons.

Findings/ Outcomes/ Conclusion –  conclude with a reiteration of the critical and key outcomes against the research questions

Adolescent boys’ reading underachievement in reading is a concern to all educators politicians, teachers, researchers and parents. The reasons for this concern is complex and at the centre of the solutions are the needs and interest of each adolescent boys’ to succeed in reading.  Many boys disengage from school reading because they do not perceive it as relevant to their current lives which is a contrast to their school life.

What needs to change for high schools to provide a well rounded achievable outcome for adolescent boys’ to participate in reading is an open mind and a willingness to make significant changes to curriculum policy, teaching practices and assessment methods based on the research findings.  As educators, it is agreed  there is a great deal we don’t know about adolescent boys and reading. There needs a better understanding of what reading looks like for boys and how our classroom practices relate to what boys are and are not doing.

Summary of findings

Question 1 What are the challenges in the way reading is taught to boys in a high school?

As expected, teaching reading in high school is challenging for teachers as the curriculum and teaching methods can put off adolescent boys’ to read. Curriculum and reading texts are ignoring boys needs and interests and focus on a narrow traditional method that fails to engage boys.

It is confirmed that a major challenge in how teacher obtain results in reading are standardised tests. They have all highlighted boys are at or below proficiency level at reading. Teachers do not truly know how these adolescent boys are faring with their reading if these assessements are structured in ways that create barriers for boys.  What is required  are classrooms need to be active, more hands on activiites boys on their feet, moving about, working individually, in pairs, and in teams to solve problems, create products, compose presentations to their classmates all engaging boys with reading in schools.

Question 2 –  What impact has this had on boys’ achievement in reading?

The findings confirm that adolescent boys’ achievement in reading has been negatively impacted by educational policy, curriculum and teaching and assessment methods. There is a need to approach this issue with an open-mind and a willingness to make significant changes for adolescent boys. A school culture, curriuculum and a respectful relationship between boys and teachers are encouraged to promote an inclusive ‘boy friendly’ curriculum that will invite boys to be engaging in learning to read. Not including the interest of boys’ in providing choices for them, and not pursuing real purpose or interests for boys in teaching methods are all impacting negatively towards their achievement in reading.  Reading classes need to be more relevant and provide more technological skills if adolescent boys need to success in today society.

Question 3 – What effect will the use of motivation strategies have on their academic performance in reading

Findings specifically found motivation strategies that is actively incorporated into the curriculum and in teaching practices can encourage adolescent boys’ to read.  Adolescent boys will read for academic demands however results suggest that motivation to read and reading performance are highly contextualized by factors such as book genre, choice and task (Wigfield,  ) The constructs of motivation to read is most partial towards enjoyment and interests and it plays and important part in increasing adolescent boys intrinsic motivation to read.  The findings include book choice as an incentive to motivation, reading task geared towards boys interest are all motivation strategies for the adolescent boys. However high school subject teachers find it difficult to support any motivational strategies in regards to reading stating that they struggle to implement any strategies due to the time constraints for their 50-90 min class.

Recommendations and  future studies

In addition, further research should be conducted into the implication above that facilitating students’

The results of this paper affirmed the critical need to support the

reading of males and there is a plethora of research on how to accomplish this.

However, the most significant unveiling of the study was not truly about the boys, but

rather about the teachers. That is, what the boys want from us.


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