The present study investigated (1) gender differences in the longitudinal development of language achievement and school engagement (i.e., effort for language, attitude toward learning tasks, interest in learning tasks, and relationship with teachers) across secondary school (Grades 7–12, ages 12–18) and (2) gender differences in the association between these developmental processes.
Data were drawn from the Longitudinal Project in Secondary School (LOSO project) that followed a cohort of 2,270 students in Flanders (Dutch-speaking part of Belgium) during secondary school. We used univariate and multi-variate latent growth curve models to analyze the longitudinal data. The results showed, as expected, significant gender differences in the development of language. Girls showed a quasi-linear positive learning gain in language across secondary school, whereas boys started with a decline followed by acceleration in their learning gain in language. With regard to school engage-ment we observed a decline both for boys and girls, but the decline in the effort for language and the attitude toward learning tasks was steeper for boys than for girls. In addition, we found evidence for a positive longitudinal association between language achievement and school engagement, meaning that students who showed a smaller decline in school engagement also showed more learning gains in language. Moreover, only for boys were the school engagement starting levels related to their learning rates in language.