London Metropolitan University Research Institutes


Pupils' learning preferences in girls' schools

Funded by:

the Association of Maintained Girls’ Schools



The study was commissioned by the AMGS to investigate the nature of girlsí learning preferences, and to examine their aspirations and constructions of gender and ability. It involved questionnaires and classroom observation. Pupils from Year 10 and 11 at eight different state-maintained girls’ schools in England were sent questionnaires. The schools were selected to represent diversity in terms of social class and ethnicity. 203 questionnaires were returned. 61 further questionnaires were completed by teachers of these pupils. Finally, classroom observation was undertaken in Humanities and Science classes at two different girls’ schools.

The study found that girls place great value on having their individual learning needs met, and find high quality explanation from teachers very important in aiding their learning. Girls valued collaborative learning and classroom discussion, and prefer traditional, ‘hands-on’ teaching practices. There was some dissonance between girls’ and teachers’ views concerning the usefulness of certain classroom activities. Teachers were very positive about girls as pupils and learners: large proportions felt that girls are easier to teach, and harder working than boys.

The girls were generally affirming of gender equality, with high proportions supporting the notion that boys and girls are equally able at all subjects. However, a lower proportion of girls supported this notion than did girls at mixed-sex schools. Single-sex schooling was seen as beneficial to girls by the pupils and teachers, mainly due to the lack of perceived disruption from boys.

The girls’ subject preferences had become less gender-stereotypical than was the case 20 years ago. However, single-sex girls’ subject preferences were slightly more (rather than less, as the literature might have suggested) gender-stereotypical than were those of girls in mixed-sex schools. Particularly, their dislike of science subjects was pronounced. The single-sex schoolgirls were highly ambitious, with 83 per cent aiming to go to university (overwhelmingly pursuing the ‘A’ level route), and the majority choosing professional jobs. However, as with mixed-sex school pupils, the attributes of the job chosen tended to be traditionally gendered.


Project Team:

Becky Francis
Merryn Hutchings
Louise Archer


Becky Francis -


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