differentiating by gender

Image from Julianne F.‘S reflections on gender and communication.

When Good Marks are Not Enough by Rosalind Wiseman

The success in educating girls, many say, has come from recognising
their specific learning styles as well as their emotional development
and the impact of friendships.

Teaching Physics to students – or Teaching to Girls and Boys by Prof. Dr. hannelore Schwedes

For today I will put my focus to physics instruction, and I want to
argue that teachers, she or he, should be very aware of their own gender-like
behavior and to that of their boys and girls. We have to realise that we
act and react differently to a male or female partner, and that´s
allright. I think it is a very unlucky rule in education saying teachers
should treat all their students exactly the same way, or parents their

I have had the opportunity to work in a variety of school contexts over the past 10 years – as a teacher, coordinator, pareducator, and consultant. I have worked in elementary schools, high schools, and university. I have worked in co-ed classes, all girls and all boys classes at both public and private schools, and I have worked 1 on 1 with both boys and girls.

Differences in Learning

All of my experience has led me to believe and understand that children learn differently, that it is essential to be aware of and teach to different learning styles, ability, and interest if I want to make sure that my students have equal access to learning. Another element, infusing all of those, is gender.

As educators who value integrity and strive for excellence in our practice, we must understand and aim our teaching practice towards the students in our classrooms. No, let me wordsmyth for a bit, towards the children, towards the girls and the boys.

Looking at the Brain

We now have the ability to see what happens in the brain as it is happening, through Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), and we can see how boys and girls brains process information in very different manners.

Through fMRI, we have discovered, for example, “There are exceptions and shades of gray, of course but in general according to Dr. Deak [psychologist and author of Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters.]:

  • Female brains are predisposed to excel in language, auditory skills, fine motor skills and attention to detail
  • The female brain is more decentralized, using a variety of parts or locations for a single task
  • The female brain is more integrated, allowing both brain hemispheres to work together via a more developed corpus callosum, the bridge between the right and left brain hemispheres
  • In the female brain, thoughts and emotions are much more complex, integrated and intertwined than in the male brain.”

from Gender and the Brain: The Difference is in the Details on the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools website

Allowing Data to Drive Design

I see this as valuable data that educators can use when they are designing programs and learning situations for the girls and boys in their classes. It is powerful data to know how girls, for example, learn in order to design activities that address their learning strengths and it is also important data to help us design situations that provoke them to go outside of their comfort zones, what Dr. Deak calls ‘against the grain’ learning.

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