What’s the difference between girls and boys? The first that pops into the mind is, obviously, physiology. But just as important is the role the society expects of a girl or a boy to fill from birth to death. Gender, however, isn’t just about the F or M box to be ticked at birth. It’s also about patterns of behavior, attitudes, social roles, and expectations. And it is these that have a massive impact on teaching and learning.
The expectations from boys and girls in school are stereotypical, from how they act in classrooms to their academic choices. Add factors such as family and peer pressure, cultural and social molds, and much more that we often sum up as: “But it’s how girls (or boys) are.”
Typically, teachers, educators, or instructors aren’t the key drivers behind gender roles and molds, but they can affect them through their responses and interaction.
An often fiery debate has been ongoing about gender differences in learning styles. One of the points of general agreement is that the educator is responsible for recognizing and addressing gender diversity and the approach to students. And approach strategy to each student may be crucial for hers or his motivation and performance.
Differences in Learning Style
Female and male students may lean toward different learning styles. That may include visual, auditory, read-write, and kinesthetic preferences. One study indicated female students preferring single-mode instruction – mostly kinesthetic, learning from touch, hearing, smell, taste, and sight. On the other hand, male students favor multimodal teaching.
Both genders favor active learning, but differences show concerning passive and group studying. A Semantic Scholar study suggests that males are at ease with independent learning and prefer applied learning, while females are conceptual/relational learners inclined towards reading and demonstrated instructor knowledge.
For this reason, male students might prefer the hands-on approach, whereby female students might lean toward in-class learning and, for example, internships.
All students enjoy working with other people on learning activities and like working in groups and teams. Some studies show girls typically reaching higher academic achievements but also as more critical of their performance. On the other hand, boys are often unrealistic in estimating their performance.
Understanding different learning experiences in male and female students can help improve educational models and improve educational experiences to meet the diverse needs of students. A better insight into what male and female students value and prefer in education goals could help improve guidance across the board.
Naturally, many students contradict gender stereotypes, especially in terms of their physical abilities. Such students may crucially benefit from their instructors’ emotional support and affirmation. It is the same with the many female and male students who make choices and act contrary to trends within their groups.
So, differences within gender groups may be far more critical to their learning style and academic achievements than any intergroup differences. The notion of “different” cognitive abilities of females and males may be the prime example. There is no conclusive scientific evidence to support that. Some studies found minor differences, with boys somewhat better at math and girls slightly better at reading and literature. However, recent papers expose these differences are insignificant. Maybe it is time to ask ourselves why we’re even discussing gender-role differences at all.