In reality, that is an unfair question. Boys and girls can’t really be compared as being smarter than the other gender, simply because they are different. Science has proven repeatedly that girls and boys demonstrate different propensities for aptitudes, learning styles, and emotional skills. Through the evolution of humans (and in my personal belief – divine planning), male and female brains are wired differently. We have hunters and gatherers – provider and nurturers. As parents, community members, and educators, we can help our children reach their potentials if we stop trying to make everyone the same and embrace, understand, and work with the differences.
Let’s get it out of the way. I’m not proposing anything near the idea that girls can’t do the same things that boys can do, or that all children follow gender stereotypes. That thought goes completely against my endeavor in life to make sure all of my kids, the boys and my daughter, feel empowered to chase their dreams. And as someone who was the only girl on the city’s baseball team as a child because there wasn’t a youth league for girls, I know all about gender biases. However, girls and boys are different, and this fact shines through in their learning styles and motivations.
What Are the Differences Between Boys and Girls?
An interesting book on the subject, Boys and Girls Learn Differently!, by Michael Gurian, thoroughly discusses the differences between boys and girls when it comes to things that influence their learning styles, and ultimately, their classroom or academic successes and failures. The following differences are not hard and fast rules for every child, but scientifically proven trends in the developmental nuances that often distinguish male and female brains.
- They tend to thrive on deductive reasoning, forming a general perspective faster than girls, which scientists say is why boys seem to perform better on timed multiple choice tests.
- They are more adept at abstract reasoning, and can grasp mathematical concepts through blackboard teachings more easily than girls.
- Our guys tend to be silent learners, and prefer to communicate with jargon and coded languages – short, sweet, and to the point.
- Boys hear less than girls, and want evidence to support what it is that they hear.
- They get bored more easily because they require more stimulants, and boredom leads to misbehaviors.
- Boys need more physical space in which to learn.
- Movement helps to stimulate their brain, so they are more likely to learn if they can move (even if it is what we refer to as fidget).
- They follow a pecking order in social and group learning situations.
- The boys tend to like symbols, diagrams, and decoding.
- They prefer structured teams with clear leaders and roles.
- They are more likely to pursue inductive reasoning that adds to their overall knowledge base and helps them conceptualize main ideas.
- Girls are more likely to prefer concrete reasoning, and do better if they can use more of their senses in learning – so they might lean more towards math manipulative pieces.
- They use words as they learn, and continue to communicate with detailed language.
- Girls are better listeners. Their language processing allows them to be more receptive to details, and they prefer conversations that flow, even if there isn’t empirical evidence to support something.
- They are better at self-managing boredom, and are therefore often perceived as better behaved than boys.
- They don’t need as much physical space when learning as compared with boys.
- Girls don’t need to move as much while learning – again – often leaving them perceived as better behaved.
- They prefer cooperative learning that involves high levels of social interaction, and they aren’t as concerned with structure of the group.
- Girls prefer written language as compared to symbols and codes, and they look for the emotions behind the words.
What Do the Differences Between Boys and Girls Mean in the Classroom?
If you read these lists of typical characteristics, there were probably some that made you nod your head as you recognized them right away for yourself, your spouse, or your children. In order to create what Gurian refers to as the ultimate classroom, where boys and girls are both able to learn to the best of their natural abilities as well as learn to develop those hidden talents, parents and educators need to work together to create new models of teaching.
Gurian describes how gender influences learning styles and that our brains naturally tend to put our best performances forward, and tend to almost hide those learning styles that might not seem as natural.
“The concealment is not conscious; it is simply that the brain puts forth into the world what it feels best at, leaving undeveloped (unless the brain is significantly aided) what is does not naturally feel as good at showing the world.”
So, instead of punishing boys for naturally being boys who are louder, wiggle-worms, and spatially stimulated, and assuming girls will do all of the talking and more effectively communicate emotions, there are things we can do to help our children develop their hidden skills. Join me tomorrow as I give some practical, and a few unconventional, ideas for helping boys and girls learn to use their gender-based gifts to develop their whole selves.