Research conducted by the United Kingdom’s Open University, Bournemouth University, and the University of Hertfordshire indicates that the gender of images used in software programs may influence boys and girls’ ability to master them.
In the study, 11 and 12-year-olds were given problem-solving exercises which used either stereotypically masculine images including pirates, ships and planes, or “feminine” images like teddy bears. Girls outperformed boys when “feminine” images and metaphors were used, while boys performed better than the girls when masculine images and metaphors were employed.
One of the study’s authors, Dr. Karen Littleton commented, “What we hope we have demonstrated is that where you see what looks like a deficit in performance, it may be because of the task children have been set.”
The UK has long struggled to improve boys’ achievement in school, which has consistently lagged behind that of girls, particularly in the subjects of reading and writing. In response to this problem, Education Secretary David Blunkett has called for educators to revise National Curriculum guidelines by adding more books and lessons that will appeal to male students.