Friday, July 15, 2011

Surprise! Boys and Girls Learn Differently

Here is a quick survey about Boys and Girls. See the table of results at the bottom. Correct answers will show in green. Incorrect in Red. Newest responses will show at the bottom of the spreadsheet.

If males and females really are the same, why are they so different?

Boys are falling behind. This is not an "American" problem. Research is showing it is a global issue.

If we are truly the same and equal, why are boys being diagnosed for learning disabilities at a much higher rate?

A spattering of research:
  • one of the underlying beliefs in our culture is that we have fabricated these gender stereotypes. This is probably more appropriate for girls and their self-image. Women's right has actually made it harder on women socially and emotionally. However, it is more than just culture. We are wired differently:
    • the brain, even with the naked eye, looks different in males and females. They are different!
    • men who has a stroke on the left lose more speech functions than men who stroke on the right. But that is not true in women, they use both sides for speech. The joke that men only use half of their brain is sort of true (in speech at least)! Look at Congresswoman Gifford and her recovery.
    • Girls hear better than boys - the distinction has even been observed in newborn babies continuing through development. Girls will often complain that a teacher "is yelling".
    • Girls are better at reading facial expressions. Studies done as early as the day of birth. Gender was not known by researchers. The newborn girls tended toward the face of a young woman rather than a mobile. Boys have more cells in their eyes to make them sensitive to movement. Girls have more "P cells" and are sensitive to soft colors.
    • Boys and girls approach direction differently. Girls give direction by landmarks. Boys are more procedural.
    • part of the brain that deals with feelings develops much more quickly in girls. Do not confuse "emotion" with "feelings". Boys will show emotion, but asking "how do you feel about that" isn't as appropriate.
    • Risk taking - Boys take more risks than girls (sometimes to their own detriment). 
    • Boys are more into rough and tumble play. Very healthy for boys. Some say this is a cultural thing, but it has been observed across cultures. There are always exceptions, of course. Boys will "duke it out" then be friends 2 hours later. Girls tend to hold grudges.

Classroom Techniques: An Overview
Science is confirming what we all knew already...Boys and girls are different. There is a growing movement of single-gender education. If there are truly differences, we can better target classroom instruction in a single-gender environment.

Just splitting them up...does that make a difference in and of itself?
The presenter wrote his dissertation on it. His research showed teachers didn't do much different in terms of teaching techniques based on gender. He expected there to be no real difference because instruction wasn't being changed.

Surprisingly, all subjects except Social Studies showed differences, and male classes caught up to girls...even with no instructional modifications based on gender.

Some observations from the classroom:
Girls typically draw pictures of people, flowers, and trees with colors, neatly arranged using warm colors (red, green, yellow, brown). Boys tend to draw action in 3rd person perspective using "cold" colors (blue grey silver and black). Girls draw nouns, boys draw verbs. 95% of kindergarten teachers are women. Teachers tend to encourage students to draw the pictures they like. Students are intuitive and boys find that their "action" pictures are not pleasing to the teacher and quickly label themselves as "not good at art". In a modern, 21st century, "gender-neutral" classroom, the boy quickly transfers his "inability" in art to many areas of the classroom.

In single-gender schools, boys get more involved in art, drama, and the like. Our co-ed system has created the cultural differences we see because of a lack of awareness of gender differences. The difference isn't the culture, it is the biology.

Classroom Strategies for boys:
  • single-gender classes
  • put the boys in the front (but explain why...they can't hear)
  • Boys need action
  • use primary colors for organization (if you use a table for papers/organization in that is color coded)
  • Boys should use Blue or Green when highlighting
  • Move around when you talk (boys are stimulated by motion/action)
  • use visual cues
  • Try to speak only when you are facing the students - Don't talk with your back to them
  • Make sure boys are looking at you
  • Give wait time - especially for boys
  • after a student does answer a question - before you indicate right or wrong - ask a student to summarize and judge whether it is right or wrong
  • Spread out boys' desks as far as possible - allow opportunities for rough & tumble play
  • teach boys how to identify serious injuries
  • have boys take notes word-for-word because they are not good [tendency] auditory learning
  • small boys do better with several shorter recesses in a day
  • break skills into smaller bits
  • make handwriting exercises into fun games - grade handwriting randomly from ALL work, not just handwriting practice
  • break long-term projects into concrete steps with deadlines
  • if students can't write in their books, let them use sticky notes in their books
  • let them memorize things (boys)
  • break up lectures by stopping every 5 to 10 minutes and ask for a synopsis
  • Talk for 5 minutes and then have them write down what they remember
  • Have students work math problems twice - specifically the 2nd time on a fresh sheet of paper
  • have a variety of literature choices so boys and girls can choose (Michael Gurian's website has a list of "boy friendly" books"
  • Encourage boys to go into non-typical careers. Encourage their passion!

Classroom Strategies for girls:
  • give girls more risk-taking opportunities
  • start with thebig picture and comprehensive discussion. Then head to the details.
  • math/science - begin with written materials and describe each step
  • a soft voice is better
  • have them stand when they're answering a question
  • be careful of facial expressions - girls read into them and can get discouraged
  • concept mapping works well
  • journaling and question journals
  • pair girls up and have one explain while the other DRAWS it
  • make her explain how she would solve it FIRST, before solving
  • Don't present alternative ways of solving problems until they have mastered one way

Presented at IICSE by Dr. Doug Roth - Dean of the College of Education at Southeastern University. 7/14/11

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