How Can Boys' Understanding of Masculinity and Manhood be Enhanced and Broadened Through Literature in the Language Arts Curriculum? — Amy Foster, Trinity Pawling School, United States

An action research project was undertaken to determine the validity of studying literature as a method to broaden boys’ understanding of masculinity. The objective was to investigate any difference in the boys’ perceptions of masculinity before and after the study, and, as with any action research project, to suggest practices to “make particular educational activities more productive” (Vockell and Asher cited in Mills, 2007, p. 96). Using a year 10 and a year 11 English class, we surveyed boys with regard to their views on what masculinity and manhood meant to them, prior to their reading and discussion of several short stories whose characters portrayed distinct gender characteristics. The use of critical literacy exercises with the classes was intended to encourage a broader understanding of the written word, which is sometimes problematic with a population that does not enjoy reading, and historically does not find much success with it. Comparing postsurveys of these two classes to a third that was surveyed, but not involved with the critical reading of the stories, it was found that the boys’ former perceptions did indeed broaden to include less stereotypical definitions of what masculinity meant to them..

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Educator quote about IBSC Action Research

"Could they have been affected by our tragedy, where we openly talked about the need to bring our feelings out constructively, rather than letting them steep into toxicity? Absolutely. We are all different people than we were before December 14th; the lessons that we learned together only making us stronger."