Boys Schools - Boarding Schools for Boys: Gender Differences in Learning

While differences in the ability to learn are not gender-based but depend on each individual's aptitude, research has shown that there are different teaching approaches that work better for each gender. According to the Journal of Educational Psychology, the most fundamental difference is that girls are excessively critical of their academic performance regardless of achievement, while boys tend to have unrealistically high estimates of their accomplishments. In other words — and in general — girls who get A's think they could do much better, while boys who get B's think they are geniuses.

If this is the case with a class of students, then different teaching approaches should be applied. Teachers should encourage female students, help build up their confidence, and improve their abilities at self-evaluation, while boys should be challenged to achieve more while being taught how to realistically evaluate their accomplishments. The difference in evaluating abilities may also be traced to cultural differences that cause girls to be more dependent on adult approval than boys, while boys tend to be more motivated to apply themselves to subjects that interest them. Girls often internalize what they consider failures and then think less of themselves, while boys tend to apply academic failure to the specific subject; girls view evaluations as a diagnosis of their general ability while boys regard evaluation in more limited terms. Another difference is that girls approach their teachers as their allies and are welcoming of their help, while boys often see their teachers more as authority figures.

There are also basic differences in the way girls and boys process information. Some of these are:

Context. Putting information in context boosts the learning situation for girls, while boys are often bored. For example, girls appreciate learning about the author and relevant circumstances of a piece of literature, while boys get restless and want to get on with reading and discussing the story.

Confrontation. Though infrequently applied these days, boys regard confrontation as a challenge and become motivated to work harder. Girls, on the other hand, shrink from confrontation and will often shut down. Boys appreciate being kept on their toes: a teaching style that is energetic and mobile keeps them focused. Girls appreciate a more intimate, welcoming approach: soft couches and coffee tables, first names, and encouragement. Boys do better will more formality: hard chairs keep them awake, and formal titles foster discipline.

Small vs. Large Group Learning. Small classes work well for girls, as girls naturally gravitate to small groups to work on problems. Two girls are often more successful — and more confident — than one student standing in front of a class to give a presentation.

Teaching math. There are some major differences in the female and male brain. In terms of the way they handle what is known as navigational tasks, in a female brain, these tasks are assigned to the cerebral cortex (the section of the brain that also processes language), while in boys, the hippocampus (one of the oldest parts of the brain also responsible for long-term memories but with few direct connections to the cortex) handles these types of tasks. This is extremely relevant in terms of teaching geometry, algebra, and number theory. Boys respond better to a direct focus on the properties of numbers while girls respond better to a real-world application of numbers because the region of the brain that processes this information is associated with language and higher cognitive function.

Teaching literature. When children are between 7 and 17 years old, emotion is handled in the same part of the brain: the amygdala. But at around the age of 17, emotional activity in the female brain moves to the cerebral cortex, which handles reasoning, language, and higher cognitive skills, while the male brain still processes emotional activity in the amygdala, one of the oldest parts of the brain with no direct connection to the cerebral cortex. That's why boys don't usually respond to an inquiry about any feelings a book might invoke, or how he would feel if he were placed in the same circumstances as a character. Girls appreciate character analysis, including examining a character's motives, behavior, and reactions. Typically, many boys prefer non-fiction where they can read about real-life events, while many girls gravitate to literature that explores a character's experiences.

Taking all this into account, it remains true that both boys and girls are extremely influenced by the attitudes and actions of teachers and family members. These differences are particularly seen in attitudes toward work. Girls are often charged with chores that effect family life, such as taking care of younger siblings or helping with meals. Boys are often assigned more physical chores, such as mowing the lawn, taking out garbage, or heavy cleaning. The more parents and teachers encourage children to explore equal activities, the easier it becomes for both sexes to achieve academically.