Boys and Girls Learn Differently
Beginning in 2003, Clear Water Academy introduced boys and girls classes to reflect a growing body of research showing that boys and girls see, hear, and react to the world around them in very different ways. As a result, boys and girls learn differently. Of course, there are no absolutes in brain science - there are continuums within each boy or girl brain. There is, however, no downside to employing strategies that all learners benefit from.
At Clear Water Academy our curriculum makes no distinction between genders. Boys and girls are both held to the same high academic standards, receive the same quality instruction, and their formation is directed to the same end: the development of Christian leaders. The fact that boys and girls are different doesn't mean they need different educations. It means that they need to be taught differently if they are to achieve the same standards.
All of our educators have received training to learn about these differences and the best practices to deliver curriculum to both boys and girls. Furthermore, while the school is a co-educational environment, students in grades 4 through 9 receive the majority of their instruction in gender separate classes. Lunch, recess, some options classes and other co-ed activities provide time for boys and girls to connect on a social level.
In his book titled Why Gender Matters, author Leonard Sax. M.D., Ph.D., says, “There are few differences in what girls and boys can learn. But there are big differences in the best ways to teach them.”
Dr. Sax affirms that gender may be more fundamental to learning than age regarding how children hear and speak. If teachers understand the differences, they can apply brain-based strategies in the classroom, which help to break down gender stereotypes, rather than foster them. “The true path to equality lies in recognizing and embracing our differences, thereby emphasizing our strengths,” says Douglas Mansfield, Grade 5 boy’s teacher at CWA.
Carolyn Skrlik, Grade 5 girls teacher at CWA, has taught Kindergarten to Grade 6 in both mixed and single-gender classrooms for over 30 years. She says, “I firmly believe that we need to consider gender differences. Children’s abilities vary in many regards, and by implementing effective teaching strategies, we are helping our students to learn and grow in the best possible manner.”
Gender differences have many physiological components – one being the makeup of the brain. In addition to having effects on learning, this leads to differences in how boys and girls relate to one another, their parents, and their teachers. The Gurian Institute, co-founded by one of the world’s foremost gender experts, Dr. Michael Gurian, is dedicated to research and strategy development in this field. According to Dr. Gurian, training teachers about gender differences and giving them strategies to set up their classrooms to engage with boys and girls differently has been shown to improve outcomes: higher test scores, decreased discipline issues, and improvements in social/emotional learning.
A single gender environment gives freedom to the students to take more learning risks, develop greater confidence and form positive relationships. Girls value the relationship and enjoy face-to-face conversation with their peers and their teachers. They will ask the teacher for advice or assistance more readily than will a boy. Boys, on the other hand, are more interested in activity – not conversation. They prefer their interactions with peers and teachers to be shoulder-to-shoulder rather than face to face. They will ask the teacher for help as a last resort.
Darren Forrester, CWA principal says, “An all gender classroom is an empowering experience for students. They take risks in their thoughts, ideas, and learning that do not necessarily come to fruition in a mixed classroom environment. We can choose the classroom resources that tap into the interests of the students.”
At Clear Water Academy, the faculty, parents, and students have seen the benefits of recognizing that boys and girls learn differently. As Desmond Sanesh, Dean of Students at CWA sums up, “It’s a joy to see young men and women come alive when these evidence-based best practices are utilized because you see their confidence grow.”
Dr. Leonard Sax MD PhD: Dr. Leonard is an American psychologist and family physician. He is best known as the author of several books for parents including: Why Gender Matters, Boys Adrift and Girls on the Edge. He is also founder and executive director of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education.
Dr. Michael Gurian is one of the world’s foremost gender experts and is the New York Times bestselling author of thirty two books including The Wonder of Boys, The Wonder of Girls, Boys and Girls Learn Differently. He is also the co-founder of the Gurian Institute: “Our work is a powerful deep dive into the minds of boys and girls that has been proven successful in helping schools and communities throughout the world.”