School Should Encourage Girls To Be Disruptive To Improve Success Later In Life

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Schools should encourage girls to be disruptive to help them become successful later in life, it has been suggested.

Dr Kevin Stannard said that "disruptiveness" can be empowering and teach young women skills that they will need to gain university places and perform well in the workplace.

In an article for the Times Educational Supplement (TES) Dr Stannard, who is director of innovation and learning at the Girl's Day School Trust (GDST), said across the world girls are outperforming boys at school.

But he warns that praising girls for shining in performances and recitations as well as for politeness and neatness, and awarding them high marks for balanced, well-thought out essays, may have a counter effect.

"Are we doing girls a long-term disservice by defining their performance in terms of their compliance to expectations of behaviour and work that reflect, reinforce and reproduce differences between the genders?" he writes.

Dr Stannard argues: "As testing in schools becomes ever more standardised, modularised and tick-box in form, we run the risk of inadvertently encouraging girls in their typically more measured, stepwise approach to tasks.

"When we give higher marks to essays that show balance and give equal weight to opposing arguments, and praise girls who shine in set-piece performances, recitations and productions, we could be setting them up to fail when they face more competitive, combative situations such as interviews for selective universities."

He cites research which suggested that disruption is "a proven path to success", and that girls should figure out how to challenge and influence authority, learn to improvise and aim to be respected, not just liked.

"'Disruptiveness' isn't, of course, a particularly valued attribute in schools, but it is not so very far from those of resourcefulness, resilience, enterprise, adventurousness, risk-taking, determination, standing up for yourself, leadership and connectivity, which good schools do indeed seek to encourage and develop in girls," Dr Stannard said.

He goes on to say: "Encouragement of 'misbehaviour' should only go so far: we wouldn't want to motivate students to not value academic success.

"But disruptiveness - as in the willingness to question, suggest alternatives, challenge, take risks, adapt and lead - can be very empowering."

The GDST is a network of independent girls' schools.

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