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complex dynamics

Achievement gaps, or differences in performance, exist between boys and girls and men and women. These gaps may relate to athletic performance, career choice or success, academic achievement, or general psychological measures such as cognitive abilities. The question that contemporary research seeks to answer is why these gaps exist and what can be done to lessen or eliminate them. One category of variables that can affect achievement is individual differences such as self-concept or attitudes. For instance, girls or boys may exhibit less self-confidence in academic domains that have been traditionally associated with success by the other sex. It is important to note that although these differences appear to arise internally, from the self, the environment (e.g., messages individuals receive about gender stereotypes or experiences they have) also influences individual difference. Biological and environmental influences do not exist in isolation from one another. Strong evidence exists for the influence of social factors, especially input from parents and educators, in affecting performance and interest in various domains, which can have widespread and long-lasting influence.

A difficulty in studying achievement gaps is that sex and gender are not the only identities that affect achievement. Economic status, ethnicity, culture, and other facets of identity may interface with sex and gender to create complex dynamics. You may notice in your text that many studies report gender achievement gaps in certain areas for one ethnic group but not another, or in one age group but not another.

For this Discussion, you will examine one gender achievement gap in depth by explaining the factors that influence it and how it affects individuals and societies. In your response posts, you will share strategies that could be used to mitigate the gaps your colleagues discussed.

To prepare

  • Review the individual difference factors and social factors that contribute to achievement gaps (e.g., the math gap) between boys and girls and men and women.
  • Identify one achievement gap that you have experienced or witnessed, either in the classroom or in the workplace. Then, identify at least one individual difference factor and one social factor that appear to contribute to this achievement gap. Consider how this achievement gap influences both the individual and society as a whole.

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