History shows that all-boy classrooms might actually benefit girls

May 31, 2011, Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

In recent years, the apparent decline in boys' academic success rates has troubled politicians, researchers, and educators. It has been described as an educational crisis and a failure of the traditional school setting. The decline has spurred scores of potential solutions to the problem, including the adoption of same-sex classrooms as a way to better address boys' educational needs.

New research that will be presented at the 2011 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Fredericton, New Brunswick, indicates that the picture might not be so simple.

Christopher Greig, an assistant professor of at the University of Windsor, believes that current analyses of same-sex classrooms are hopelessly ahistorical—that is, they don't look at what happened in the past when such arrangements were tried.

Greig's research looks at a Windsor elementary school that adopted segregated classrooms for grades one through three from 1966-1972. As part of his research, Greig interviewed 10 administrators and teachers who took part in the pilot project.

Shaped by a variety of complex historical factors and fueled by a desire for educational innovation, "All of them were very enthusiastic about doing it," he says. "They thought this would be a way to address boys' underachievement."

While boys did "okay" under the new structure, the real winners were , who "took off" academically in same-sex classrooms, says Greig. However, the negatives outweighed the positives. Not only were some of the segregated boys expressing misogynistic attitudes and prone to violence, but the educational gap between boys and girls actually increased over the course of the project, he says.

Greig's research is both a refutation of the idea that boys' academic disadvantages can be solved just by removing girls from the equation and a criticism of the present level of discourse.

"The current discussions around boy-only classrooms typically—and I think problematically—try to address boys' underachievement in simplistic and outdated ways," Greig says.

Greig will be presenting his paper "Creating Boy-Only Classrooms in a Liberal Era: Exploring a case of all-male classrooms in the 1960s" on May 31 at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, co-hosted by the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University.

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4 / 5 (1) May 31, 2011
Boys and girls learn differently.
If the academic results are based on coursework, girls do better.
If its just exams, boys do well
not rated yet May 31, 2011
Wow, sexism at play here.

It depends on person-to-person not just girl-to-boy.
2.2 / 5 (6) May 31, 2011
Even if it benefits females, feminists will oppose it because it acknowledges males and females are different.
2.5 / 5 (2) May 31, 2011
Distractions interfere with learning - whether it's texting, talking or sexual pairing interactions - certainly did in the 60's. As a male, I would certainly hate not to have had females to gaze through out my daze in school, not their smelling their pheromones, not hearing their voices, not their far too infrequent touch. As a logical human, there is no doubt in mind that without them my attention would have been less distracted and probably my grades higher, but don't tell anyone. Not recognize the impact of human sexual behavior on learning isn't sexism, just stupid. Checkout Dilbert today - for a graphic display of the distraction problem.
not rated yet May 31, 2011
Male teachers for boys would have a positive impact. Female teachers tend to favor girls, and when teaching an all boys class they are less motivated, have less rapport and are less effective than male teachers. The presentation of the curriculum is developed by women for girls; a pedagogy developed by men for boys and tailored to their drives and interests is needed for a fair comparison. Grading methods could also be more suited to boys - measuring the actual quantity mastered of an open-ended body of knowledge rather than testing what percentage of an arbitrary fixed package of curriculum the pupil can regurgitate. Boys differ in ability from one another more than girls do (wider standard deviation); having differentiated classes for different levels of ability also would tend to benefit boys.

Applying these techniques would likely wipe out the differences in achievement seen between all-boy and all-girl classes.
not rated yet Jun 01, 2011
I remember those distractions.. I'd have been a much better student if I hadn't have had them! From about 3rd grade to senior in high school....
not rated yet Jun 03, 2011
I have a very hard time believing that sexual distraction is significant for 5-8 year olds. This study does not support the distraction theory some here seem to believe.
1 / 5 (3) Jun 03, 2011
It must be heaven for gay-boys to be in an all boy-class room.
not rated yet Jun 03, 2011
It must be heaven for gay-boys to be in an all boy-class room.


You disgust me right now.
1 / 5 (3) Jun 03, 2011
I was just making fun of the sexist article.
And i don't know what grade 1-3 means. We have a different system here.
not rated yet Jun 03, 2011
Grade 1-3 means the same in most civilized nations ages 4,5-8,9.

Where are you from?!
not rated yet Jun 03, 2011
I was just making fun of the sexist article.

Ok. I'm all for jokes, but that was way over the top considering the ages. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that you didn't know the ages they were talking about.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 05, 2011
As a HS teacher, every under-preforming class I have ever had (EVER) has been a class with predominately more males than females. There is something about clasroom culture when 60,70,80% of the class are male -- the females suffer from the mix, and the males really suffer.

Every above average class I have had has been well mixed or leaning towards the female side. I have noticed that in classes with more females, on-task behavior increases even in the males, who do not outnumber the females and have no need for antics or silly ploys to gain attention and status.
3 / 5 (2) Jun 05, 2011
Luckily learning was completed before there was recognition of gender. I still remember learning. I use learning all the time now. Despite what teaching asserts. I have no idea what teachers teach. I know what learners learn. It is sad learning recedes, only to be replaced with the poorest of all substitutes: teaching.

If you are a teacher, and you replace yourself with reintroducing what your hapless classroom victims processed at birth, you will be unemployed. There is no greater tribute or sacrifice you can offer to those in need of re-accessing the abilities of learning present at birth.

You learned how to breath. And you were you own teacher.
"Discovering" gender will take your breath away. From there on, you will be taught.
not rated yet Jun 06, 2011
It is sad learning recedes, only to be replaced with the poorest of all substitutes: teaching.

It seems you have never taught. When you have to teach a concept, your depth of understanding needs to be greater than if you did not have to teach that concept, thus greater learning for the teacher. This is obvious when you have to teach things.

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