International Journal of Art & Design Education

Boys' Lack of Interest in Fine Arts in a Coeducational Setting: A Review of Sex-Related Cognitive Traits Studies

Volume 28.1   2009



Fine arts teachers' concerns about male underachievement in a Quebec coeducational high school, and a related survey showing boys' negative perceptions of fine arts motivated this interdisciplinary literature review. Referring to biology and cognitive science, the article explores concepts of sex-related cognitive traits to help in designing sex-adapted approaches to individual learning in art education. The nature-nurture controversy still surrounds sex-based cognitive differences studies, though science agrees that natural and socio-cultural factors are somehow closely interwoven in the complex gender identity construction process. Sex-related biological predispositions influencing cognition are proposed notably in 'instrumentality-expressiveness' and 'empathising-systemising (E-S)' theories. The article suggests that in the context of art education, these sex-related cognitive models deserve study, because they could initiate sex-adapted teaching strategies with the necessary flexibility and wider scope to overcome gender-stereotyped biases and stimulate boys' interest in the arts. This suggested approach should not be confused with stereotype-based pedagogy, which merely strengthens learned gender characteristics, producing or maintaining academic underachievement.