The effect of teacher expectations on the gender gap in reading performance. About the extent to which low teacher expectations lead to boys’ underperformance in reading.
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Prior research indicates that there exists a gender gap in reading performance among primary school students in which boys underperform compared to girls. Lacking this basic skill has detrimental effects for boys themselves and for society as a whole in which men can achieve less in and for society. The current research has, firstly, focused on the extent to which teacher expectations can explain this gender gap in reading performance. Theories about existing gender stereotypes among teachers and the Pygmalion effect indicating that high teachers expectations should lead to high student reading performance are discussed. Next, it is examined to what extent high teacher expectations can ‘buffer’ against boys’ underperformance in reading in which boys’ reading performances are indicated to be more impacted by teacher expectations compared to that of girls due to felt stereotype threat and stigmatization. The 2016 Dutch PIRLS dataset and two different operationalizations of teacher expectations were used to examine the mediating and moderating effect of teacher expectations on the effect of student gender on students’ actual reading performance. The conducted multiple OLS regression analyses found that, although the gender gap in reading performance indeed exists, teacher expectations do not significantly explain it. High teacher expectations do not significantly lead to high student reading performance and only teacher expectations perceived by students themselves significantly differ between boys and girls. Lastly, the research does not support the moderation effect: high teacher expectations do not significantly have more impact on boys’ compared to girls’ reading performances. Limitations of the current research and implications for future research are discussed.