Boys and girls differ in more ways than just the manner in which they dress, the things they enjoy doing, and the way they handle situations. They also have different developmental patterns and various key mechanisms that allow them to perform in different ways. There is significant and abundant research to show that boys and girls learn differently. Although not all boys act one way and girls act another way, for the most part, boys process information, behave, and learn in alternate methods when compared to girls.
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There are not only observable personality differences but also physical variations between boys and girls. On average, the male brain is 10-15 percent larger than the female brain. Also, within the brain, the parietal lobe is typically larger in males (Bonomo, 2010, p. 258). Boys are right hemisphere dominant. This accounts for spatial and mathematical reasoning; therefore, boys tend to perform better in those two areas than girls do. Due to excellence in spatial abilities, boys can easily assess maps and graphs (Kommer, 2006, p. 249). They also are apt to find visuals, symbols, and abstractions helpful when learning new material.
Girls have more cortical areas assigned to verbal functioning, allowing them to be better at listening, sitting still, and reading. Areas involved in both fine motor skills and language, on average, develop six years earlier in girls than they do in boys. Furthermore, the arcuate fasciculus, found in the central nervous system, develops earlier in females. This creates an impact because females tend to speak in full sentences earlier than males do (Gurian, 2001, p. 21). In the brain, the corpus callosum is twenty six percent larger in females (Bonomo, 2010, p. 257). This accounts for girls being able to multitask more effectively than boys because the corpus callosum is the system of nerves connecting the two halves of the brain. Girls, consequently, use both the left and right sides of the brain to process information (Kommer, 2006, p. 248). The language and emotion processing centers are, therefore, connected more systematically.
However, because girls have a greater focus on both sides of the brain, they excel less in spatial reasoning and mathematic abilities than boys do, who are dominant on the right side of the brain where those two functionalities are located. One study was conducted to look at the difference between the way boys and girls learn math. Marcus and Joakim Samuelsson, two professors at Linköping University in Sweden, found differences between not only boy’s and girl’s achievement in mathematics but also their self-regulated learning styles. These differences were determined by surveying 6758 students in one hundred and twenty schools across the country of Sweden (Samuelsson, 2016, pp. 18-34). Twelve questions were asked to the students pertaining to mathematics and what they thought about the subject. The main two topics asked about were the difficulty of mathematics and whether or not students think math is interesting. They discovered that boys find mathematics to be more important than girls do. Boys were found to have a desire to be heard and be proficient in mathematics to be able to work in professions such as being engineers, architects, or scientists. Girls were found to keep quieter in classrooms and are apt to focus more on their own work. In conclusion, they found that girls get less attention in classrooms and are involved in fewer classroom discussions about mathematics (Samuelsson, 2016, pp. 18-34). This seems to be linked to their confidence levels in math. As seen earlier, boys excel in higher levels of math, so they are more likely to be confident and talk about it in the classroom.
Boys and girls also differ chemically. Girls have more of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. This makes girls less impulsive than boys. Also, boys are more fidgety, making it hard for them to sit still (Bonomo, 2010, p. 258). It is important for boys to participate in active learning experiences that allow them to move around and engage in physical activity. Another key difference that girls and boys differ in chemically is their amounts of oxytocin. This chemical allows girls to respond immediately and empathetically to the needs of others. For instance, if a female hears someone cry, more oxytocin will be secreted, allowing them to give more attention to those in need than boys would (Gurian, 2001, p. 27).
To understand how boys and girls react in classrooms, their physical differences within the autonomic system must be examined. The autonomic system is made up of the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. Typically, the parasympathetic nervous system, commonly referred to as the “rest and digest” system, plays a large role in the female autonomic system while the sympathetic nervous system, known as the “flight-or-fight” system, influences males more (Bonomo, 2010, p. 260). These differences can be observed by how boys and girls react to certain circumstances. Under stressful situations, males are more likely to feel excited and enjoy the experience. Their emotions will be enhanced caused by adrenalin. On the other hand, females may freeze up or be unable to move in stressful situations. Normally, females will feel sick and/or nauseated. Their senses are diminished by acetylcholine (Bonomo, 2010, p. 257). By recognizing these differences, teachers can determine how a student is likely to react, and they can be prepared with pre-determined rewards or punishments.
It is hard to discuss the differences of how boys and girls learn without mentioning the gender-specific sex hormones. Estrogen is largely found in females rather than males. This often lowers aggression, competitiveness, and the ability to rely on one’s self (Gurrian, 2001, p. 21). Testosterone is found in abundance in males, and it tends to be seen to increase aggressive behaviors, risk-taking, and depression (Duke, Balzer, Steinbeck, 2014, p. 315). A cross-sectional study was conducted by three scientists to examine the evidence among males during adolescence and the effects of testosterone. Male participants ranging from ages 9-18 were selected for the study and testosterone levels were measured by means of serum or saliva by a methodology of validated immunoassay or mass spectrometry. Interestingly enough, the scientists found that the study was unable to produce sufficient longitudinal data to confirm that the rising levels of testosterone during puberty significantly affect the behaviors and actions of males. The weaknesses, they found, were due to the lack of quality data and the validity of testosterone assays utilized. The three scientists then decided to challenge the assumptions made by the general public and clinicians worldwide that testosterone has nonphysical effects. They proposed that rather than solely testosterone, these effects—an increase in aggression, depression, and risk-taking—could be present because of numerous reasons including psychosocial interactions and multifactorial behaviors (Duke, Balzer, Steinbeck, 2014, p. 321). Although this study did not line up exactly with the facts from other research that has been done, it was very fascinating to learn about a scientific “challenge” that has been proposed against current scientific findings of the effects of testosterone.
With this in mind, research leads to the fact that there are noticeable differences in the way boys and girls act in classrooms. Boys are competitive and physical while girls are talkative and cooperative. Because of this, it is recommended that boys and girls not be kept in separate classrooms. The two genders play a crucial role in developing the identity of the other gender (Kommer, 2006, p. 247). This statement, by Professor at Ashland University, David Kommer, is confirmed by Mrs. Jordan Osteen, a K5 teacher at Gateway Elementary. Mrs. Osteen added, “that [boys and girls] should be together [in classrooms] because in the real world, girls and boys are together, so they have to learn how to be with and work with peers that are a little bit different than them.” In conclusion regarding this controversy, we do not live in a world where gender is segregated, so our schools should engage in education through gender-friendly classrooms to encourage each gender to observe how the other will respond, think, and react.
Teachers must be educated on the fact that girls and boys learn differently and should be trained on how to properly cater to these variations. The best way to account for these differences in the education system is for teachers to utilize their knowledge on the way boys and girls learn and apply it to the classroom. They must practice what they learn in the classroom to allow their students to engage in an enhanced learning environment. Teachers should know that both genders should work together during certain times, and during other times, they should work separately. It is just as beneficial to permit students to work with students of the same gender for comfort and familiarity just as much as it is to promote students to work with students of the opposite gender for growth of weaker areas (Kommer, 2006, p. 250).
There are several strategies that teachers can practically use to employ the current research on how boys and girls learn differently in the classroom. For example, educators can be aware of the fact that girls like colors. By knowing this, they can create lessons using bold, abstract colors to capture the attention of girls. Or by utilizing the fact that boys like to manipulate and engage in hands-on learning, educators can come up with experimental and kinesthetic aspects to their lectures. (Bonomo, 2010, p. 263). Teachers can develop activities that provide balance throughout the school year. It is helpful for teachers to offer students opportunities that maintain stability between cooperation and competition. Educators can also make a gender-friendly environment in their classroom by calling on students equally and creating a positive, gender-neutral place to learn (Kommer, 2006, p. 50).
While studying the topic of how boys and girls learn differently, it is important to note that not all boys and girls are the same. Generalizations are easily made, but it is vital to realize the continuum that human behavior exists on. The amount of variation is incredibly vast that when examined, there is no set male and female. Each person’s genetic makeup is different. Fourteen percent of boys and twenty percent of girls have something known as “brain bridges.” These are characteristics that contain strong attributes of the opposite gender’s brain (Dixon, 2013, p. 18). Male and female brains do not only exist within the bounds of a single gender.
Also, it is important to recognize that the males and females become more similar as they age and grow with experience. The differences recognized between the way boys and girls learn are most prominent in younger children (Dixon, 2013, p. 18). Most boys and girls examined for this study were school-aged children.
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