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Brain Research and What Teachers Should Know About the Differences In Boys and Girls as Learners Theresa London Cooper

Recommended Book:
Boys and Girls Learn Differently: A Guide for Teachers and Parents
by Michael Gurian

A primary area of concern for nearly every teacher is the differences we each intuit in the males and females we teach. We all know that there is immense overlap between the genders, and that each child is an inherently sacrosanct individual not to be limited by a gender stereotype, but we also know that boys and girls learn differently right before our eyes.

Michael Gurian

Stop. Take a moment to think about the boys and girls in the pre-k through high school classroom. Ask yourself, how are they different? Why are they different? How will these differences impact my teaching practice?

Over the years, I have observed a number of differences that have been consistent. Generally, I found several things:

  • Boys tend to move around and get out of their seats more often than girls.
  • Boys tend to require more physical space when working independently than girls. (Did you ever notice that boys tend to have an arm or a leg in the space of the person sitting next to them?)
  • Boys tend to grasp spatial concepts more rapidly than girls while girls seem to embrace the use of language to convey their understanding of concepts more readily than boys.
  • Girls seem to be a great deal more talkative than boys.
  • Girls are less likely to use physical force to resolve conflicts than boys.

The list could go on and on. Once we recognize and understand these differences we can plan according to the different needs boys and girls have as learners, thereby energizing our classrooms and minimizing disruptive behavior.

We know cultural and environmental influences play a role in some of these differences. However, Michael Gurain’s book Boys and Girls Learn Differently documents brain-based research that can account for some of these differences. Additonally, the book offers practical suggestions that will improve the learning environment. The findings have profound implications for the way we set up our classrooms, seat our students, structure a lesson, and draw conclusions regarding the underlying reasons for our students’ behavior. If you want to energize your classroom, give your students opportunities to strengthen their abilities while developing new ones, and minimize disruptive behavior, I encourage you to read Gurain’s book to learn more about the brain and its impact on girls and boys as learners.

Do you have a comment or question about this article?  E-mail Theresa.


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