Do students respond better to teachers of their own gender?

by 16 Sep 2015
Does a teacher’s gender have an impact on how well students learn? Yes, according to a recent study undertaken by two US academics.

Texas A&M economic professor Jonathan Meer and graduate student Jaegeum Lim considered the effect of gender on the teaching of around 12,000 middle school students in South Korea.

They found that overall girls taught by female teachers performed better with scores rising 10 per cent above a standard deviation. However, for boys, it made no significant difference whether they were taught by a male of female teacher.

Meer says that the results, although based on South Korean students, are broadly in line with another study in 2007 by a Stanford University professor.

But what of the conclusions from the study’s findings? Meer told that the results will not apply to every situation: "We're looking at averages over groups of people, and there are immense amounts of variation within these groups," Meer said. This isn't some kind of finger-pointing saying that every female teacher is better for every student or that every male teacher is bad for every female student -- far from it."

The subject of whether men or women make better educators has been debated many times and so far it seems no conclusive evidence has been found to support either argument.

While the recent South Korean study favours women teachers, another US professor, Benjamin Schmidt, analysed reviews on and reported that women teachers are judged as “bossy” or “annoying” while male teachers were called “clever” and “awesome”. Surprisingly women were rated as “aggressive” with men considered “funny”.

A study by Kent University in the UK concluded that boys did less well when taught by a woman as they tended to be reprimanded for “typical male behaviour” while girls were praised for being clever.

Other online debates are more balanced though, acknowledging that gender alone does not make a good teacher.