Society & Culture - Posted by Kelly Parkes-Harrison-Warwick on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 17:41 - 2 Comments
Smart peers help girls but may hinder boys
U. WARWICK (UK) — Girls benefit significantly from interaction with very bright peers in secondary school, a new study shows, but the same can be detrimental for boys.
A new study published in the Journal of Labor Economics finds that a large number of “bad peers” in classes, defined as children in the bottom 5 percent of the ability range, has a significant negative effect on other classmates.
Further, a large fraction of “good peers”—defined as children in the top 5 percent of the ability range—appear to benefit girls, but have a detrimental effect on boys.
Straight from the Source
The University of Warwick researchers used results from national tests taken at ages 11 (Key Stage 2) and 14 (Key Stage 3) and estimated both the effect of average peer quality and the effect of being at school with a high proportion of very low-ability and very high-ability pupils.
“Our results imply that a 10 percent decrease in the numbers of ‘bad’ peers at school is associated with a 10 percent improvement compared to the average for Key Stage 3.
“However, a 10 percent increase in the numbers of ‘good’ peers in a class is associated with a 10 percent increase in performance for girls only, compared to the average for Key Stage 3. Boys actually seem to lose about 5 percent in performance,” says Victor Lavy, professor at the University of Warwick.
Although the differences between the results for boys and girls are surprising, it is impossible to say if they lend support to the idea of tracking students by ability, Lavy says.
“If for example, we divide the class into two ability groups, boys and girls in the lower group will experience a significant decline in academic performance while in the higher ability group girls will benefit and improve their learning while boys will not be affected.
“So do our results lend overall support to tracking of students by ability? There is no simple answer to this question, but we believe our data is rich enough and our findings robust enough to provide a solid ground for insightful interventions targeting students’ ability mix as a means to improve learning standards.”
Researchers from the London School of Economics contributed to the study.
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