Motivation can be affected by both positive factors and negative
factors, or what Martin

(2003b) would describe as ‘boosters’ and ‘guzzlers’. One
negative factor that is particularly

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pertinent for boys is a fear of failure (Martin, 2003). They
create mental and therefore

tangible barriers to learning as they worry about failing.
Boys are more likely to be unwilling

to attempt something that they are uncertain of success and
are not likely to reattempt

something that they have previously been unsuccessful
(Ludowyke and Scanlon, 1997).

These fears cause deliberate acts that confine the progress
that can be made by stopping

when trials are met, going some way to argue against the
idea of boys enjoying challenge.

Challenge, then, must be carefully controlled to balance the
feelings of success and failure

to maintain motivation. If the fear of failure sets in, boys
are much more likely to act in

self-sabotaging ways such as deliberate time wasting, or
putting off completing essays or

revision that ultimately means success is less likely
(Martin, 2003). The need for control is

clearly a desire that must be managed in the classroom,
however the balance must be

sought to reduce these fears and thus their outworkings.
Duckworth (2017) notes that

deliberate practice involves trying to do things you can’t
yet do, failing, and then learning to

do things differently. Without failure, the learning process
is incomplete and therefore pupils

need to learn to accept and build on failure rather than
mitigating against it. This doesn’t

appear to be encouraging greater self-confidence, but rather
a confidence in one’s ability to

adapt and learn. Teaching of boys thus needs to model and
expose pupils to challenge,

failure and processes to learn from weakness. Weakness is an
emotion that often breaks

against the masculine identity of boys and therefore this
stage needs to be carefully

managed to avoid the behavioural repercussions of these
perceived ‘feminine’ feelings.

The range of motivational factors at play in a classroom
dominated by boys is huge, both in

individual motivation and the group dynamics of classroom
culture. Discussion will now focus

towards the role of the teacher in fostering success in
pupils. Firstly it appears that the

classroom climate is an essential aid or barrier and
therefore teachers need to cultivate the

correct atmosphere as a function of their teaching (Marsh,
Martin and Cheng, 2008). One of

the dominant forces has been the pursuit of masculine
personas and therefore teachers

need to create a climate free of social and cultural
repercussions (Watson, Kehler and

Martino, 2010), where pupils can engage effectively in their
learning without the influences of

social pressures. Although this appears to be excellent in
theory, the extent to which can be

Task 4 – Chris Larner

managed in the classroom could be limited with the power of
external forces such as

magazines, social media and cultural history. It certainly
then appears to be a long term

readjustment of social identity that is required through
strong examples being given. Marsh,

Martin and Cheng (2008) questioned the influence of male
teachers on male pupils to

provide good role models that also project a better model of
masculinity, but found that there

was little link between male teachers and greater outcomes.
Ultimately the key component

was the relationships between pupil and teacher. Teachers
who foster good relationships

with their classes often manage the difficulties of
different forces and understand pressures

pupils are under. Although there are desires to exhibit
hyper-masculine personas, the

teachers who can work with this to build a strong repore are
likely to get better results. This

would also accentuate the interest in the subject as pupils
feel more engaged and therefore

build on the fragile early interest (Duckworth, 2017).

Relationships are built through a number of individual
actions with individual pupils which

then echo back into the class climate. One important
individual action is for the teacher, who

needs to have high standards for all in the class. Figueroa
(2000), Davis (2002), and Jones

and Myhill (2004a, 2004b) all argue that teachers often have
lower standards for boys and

therefore subconsciously reinforce the gender stereotypes of
masculine behaviors and

attitudes that lead to lower performance. These biases
within the classroom may be

completely unnoticed and therefore should take higher
consideration in order to create the

classroom climate and expectionations that stretch boys and
discourage negative

motivational factors. However, the way is which this is done
is difficult as boys appear to be

much less receptive to negative feedback from adults and
therefore the pressure is

ineffective (Dweck and Bush, 1976). Baggiano, Main and Katz
(1991) suggest that this might

be due to more emphasis being placed on boys independence
and therefore they have their

own standards of success. In some ways, this could be a good
sign that boys are developing

their own intrinsic motivation which leads to greater long
term success, however, if wrongly

placed the argument could be made that pupils are not
stretching themselves and therefore

do not attain towards mastery. The teacher must balance
between expectations, feedback

and limiting controlling behaviour. If teachers try to
control achievement behaviour the pupils

are more likely to develop greater extrinsic motivations
leading to lower competence,

reduced striving for mastery and reduced intrinsic academic
interest (Boggiano, Main and

Katz, 1991).

Overall, there is clearly a gender difference in
motivational factors and particularly in their

impact on secondary education where pupils are building,
moulding and developing their

Task 4 – Chris Larner

identities in the context of multiple competing influences.
It seems that there is a clear focus

that boys seem to be more motivated by masculine
performance, particularly during

adolescence, relegating academic performance to a lower
status as it is tied closely with

more feminine perceptions. This means that it is hard to
foster intrinsic interest and therefore

long term academic success because the academic life becomes
less of a priority and even

contradicts the pursuit of masculinity. The suggestion
appears to be that in order to combat

the power that masculine identities have over boys during
adolescence, and therefore

develop greater interest that can then be stretched into
mastery, educators need to

categorise education away from a more feminine domain, at
least in perception. Perhaps

boys will then feel the pull of the muscular
intellectualness that breeds the interest needed

for mastery. More research will be needed to be done in how
best to assert reading, writing

and learning as a neutral endeavor that does not diminish
masculinity. Education was once a

field for men and therefore these ideas must be
socio-cultural in their makeup. Both

interventions in the school and classroom scale are needed
as well as cultural

transformation on the merits of education for all,
particularly boys who currently lag behind.

The literature appears to agree on the broad motivational
issues but highlights differences

mostly along age and cultural divides and therefore action
must be taken within the specific

contexts of the pupils’ life stage and socio-cultural
background.