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The impact of social norms on boys (and girls) as writers

posted on 2023-05-25, 20:57 authored by Damon ThomasDamon Thomas
The gender gap in writing achievement is a historical, global phenomenon. While many factors impact student writing development, gender is one of the most influential. This article explores the impact of social norms on male (and female) students as they become writers.

Decades of standardised writing tests in several countries have found that male students consistently underperform when compared with females (Hyde et al, 1988; Scheiber et al, 2015). In Australia, annual NAPLAN testing since 2008 has made visible the developmental pattern of this gap, with the average Year 3 male already well behind the average female by an equivalent of 8.16 months of learning, which stretches to 11.8 months in Year 5, 20.1 months in Year 7, and 24.1 months in Year 9 (Thomas, 2020). In other words, the average Year 9 male’s writing is of a similar standard to that of the average Year 7 female. While the gap widens across the year levels, the clearest widening of the gap occurs between years 5 and 7. Male writing progress and achievement appears to falter in the transition between primary and secondary school.

Though much remains unknown about the gender gap in writing achievement, research has started to reveal more about its nature and causes. While not the focus of this article, cognitive differences associated with the gap have been explored by several researchers (e.g. Berninger et al, 1996). Regarding social norms, the gap may be at least in part attributed to the following factors.


Publication title

The language gap in Australian students’ writing - Language gap report 2021

Commissioning body

Oxford University Press




Faculty of Education


Oxford University Press

Place of publication


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Primary education; Gender aspects in education

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