Boys & Homework: Why & How we Learn

zullmodelgif1On Monday morning, I woke up as usual to CBC Information Radio. Whilst making lunches, forcing young children to practice violin, and sorting out who gets to use which spoon, a segment caught my attention related to a recent OECD study which looked at how sex might determine how and why we learn, be it through intrinsic (internal) or extrinsic (external) forces.

Here is the segment on CBC Information Radio:

My colleague, Ms. Ragot, produced an article from Saturday’s Free Press via the Economist looking at the same issue: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/analysis/female-genius-finally-has-chance-to-shine-295462041.html

This got me thinking about how we learn, regardless of sex, gender or other criteria. It also got me thinking about what sort of baggage teachers bring into the assessment process.

It also brought me back to James Zull, author of The Art of Changing the Brain, and what he suggests learning is about: changing the chemistry of the brain: http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/journals/ed_lead/el200409_zull.pdf

So here are my questions: 1) How do we learn and what do we mean by learning? And 2) Do teachers gear courses and learning experiences for a particular sex?

I invite you to ask your questions and to respond via Twitter using #CBCStudentVoice or via a comment below. Be precise, be courteous, and be smart.

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18 thoughts on “Boys & Homework: Why & How we Learn

  1. I believe that this is true because I find hands-on subjects like math much more engaging than subjects about writing such as English Language Arts.

  2. I seem to be the complete opposite of most boys. Some of the math Mr Bredin makes us do I am completely incapable of doing while I find the English Language Arts with Ms Keith much more intriguing and interesting. However I do find it hard to do homework most times without someone telling me to do it. I honestly believe that what are good at what you are not good at is entirely up to you. I believe that you can be engaged in any subject if choose to be. The same goes for boys and girls alike. In my opinion, the brain of a boy or girl is no different from the opposite sex, it just reacts differently because we are opposite sex. Boys and girls certainly have our differences, but our brains are the same, they have the same anatomy, they react differently depending on what you like and do not like.

  3. The first thing I would like to make clear is what my perception on what learning is. I believe learning is not necessarily getting a good mark in a subject, but rather having a good understanding of the subject and being able to showcase it in some form. Although understanding and marks do come somewhat hand in hand, I do believe it is possible to have a solid understanding of a topic and still get low marks. This is because marks are based on assessments such as tests, and some people have better test taking skills than others. This means if you don’t have good test taking skills, you can have a very good understanding of the topic and still not get the marks to show it. This is why I consider learning much different from marks.

    The second thing I would like to talk about is the fact that school is more geared towards girls. It is proven that males work better if some form of exercise is done before the lesson or teaching begins. This was shown very well in New Brunswick at Beaverbrook School. Regular exercise was incorporated into daily life at the school. It was shown that the males were able to focus much more during the lessons and get a better grasp of the material. This does not play as big an effect on girls however because they are generally able to focus regardless. The fact that we are being put in an environment where we are expected to be focused all day at school shows that school is more geared towards females rather than males.

  4. Every teacher has a different way of teaching. Some teachers take the regular route and give us facts to memorize and makes us regurgitate it on a test and there are others that actually make us use are brain and apply it something in the real world. I learn better, when they feed me facts and i have to say them on a test. That’s a “guy” thing to say because we tend to take the easy route. There are some guys that proper the other way around but every person learns different so its hard to define what learning really is. Like Jack said above, i agree that boys and girls brains are the same and they just act different depending on your gender.

    Im not pointing fingers at anyone in particular but most teachers favourite girls above boys. I don’t blame them as boys tend to cause trouble rather then girls. Its not the criteria they pick to teach its just they like girls because they are hard working. Im not going to lie, i need someone to remind me about my homework for me to do it. Teachers also tend to make the courses harder, making it fine for girls but harder for boys.

    The questions i have to ask are:

    1.) What do we need to change for teachers to get boys more involved in doing homework and are more interested in learning?

  5. It’s the fault of evolution.

    According to Charles Darwin, we all were from a species of Ape that slowly evolved into the intelligent creatures we are today, of course in different way.

    However, during that process, women were given nothing but the duty to take care of the children and basically to be the stay-at-home mom whilst the man was given the duty of hunting. This is reasonably fair because it develops certain strengths for both sexes.

    For men, it would develop problem solving skills involving how to capture your prey the most efficiently by building tools and for women it was compassion, sensitivity and are the reason why girls are known to be “softer” than boys, though this is very untrue and is a mere stereotype.

    On that note, I want to expand on how we learn. Well assuming that Darwin was right, then we can say that our brains, generation to generation would have gotten more and more oriented in those traits I mentioned earlier.

    Nonetheless, this is not the case either, for influential women such as Margaret Fuller and Nellie McClung fought against that vivid stereotype which was further to be thought of as: “women are not important” leading to sex-bias. But that’s something else.

    But still, we can see that according to these studies, boys and girls learn differently… why is that?

    Well it’s because of the stereotypes, of course, because if parents have this influence that all girls are soft and all boys are rough, then they are going to suffice to that burden, otherwise, having the child wither in the pain of being “the odd man out.”So the parent would make the girl read more while the boy plays hockey. Sex-bias, but societal convention.

    That being said, we can see why children behave, learn, and act the way they do, however, there are external factors. This leads me to answering the second question.

    Teachers are also under the influence of these stereotypes, in fact the whole education department is under the influence because of the novels children must read. Of course there are the action-filled, adventurous novels that everyone loves, although, most of the higher level novels are based on sensitivity, how well you can relate to the characters and how well you analyze the text.

    Same concept applies for math. Because of the fact that math is taught to be so discrete at a lower-level, it tries to relate better with boys, though the real beauty of mathematics comes from abstract, theoretical problem-solving and logic.

    So in order for parents and teachers to give a healthy balance of the two divergent subject to both sexes, we must divise a system that sets a dispersion of all of the above.

    The way we must do that, in order to not completely converse the problem is to start off by following the stereotypes until the age of approximately 10-13 where adolescence is just beginning. There should be a gradual inclination in the alteration of both subjects allowing more choices in literature and more variability in math.

    And then finally, we would make a 90% switch and with this new system, the children have experienced more of each subject, which is what we want in such a diverse community.

    I think, frankly, that this answers the question: “What do we mean by learning?” I truly believe that this means to create a smörgåsbord of subjects and hen relate the two based on our interests and our world. For if children understand how to think outside the box by creating inferences in between what they know, then that means they have genuinely learned.

  6. Lets take a step back, learning happens everywhere. Whether that being touching a hot stove and getting burt or learning how to multiply fractions, learning is everywhere. Some people like to learn by having everything right in front of them in note form, some of them like to physically learn and some people like to be told exactly what to do. All of these learning strategies work, but only you can determine what learning strategies suits you the best.

    I believe that most teachers in general intend to appeal to their whole class but when you really look at the whole situation their is always bias in the way that teachers teach. For example. In english a majority of the time you sit in your desk and read a book or fill out work sheets. This type of learning is focused on girls. But, in science a lot of the time you are moving around combining things and physically working. These types of learning strategies are focused on boys. But as I said before many of these teachers are unaware of what they are doing and just believe that what they are doing is the best way of learning but that is not always the case.

  7. I think it is true.Because most of the mans that i know think that math is easier than ELA or other language classes.But for the girls they think that math and science are harder,they need to spend more time on it than ELA.

  8. I do not fully believe that boys are better at certain subjects, and girls are better at certain subjects. I fully believe that students are more capable of doing the subjects that intrigue them. For example, I enjoy learning about science, but Math is not as interesting to me. therefore, when I do my homework, I prioritize my time more to science then Math, because I enjoy studying it.

    Heres another way to think about it. If I am a hockey player and love to play hockey, and there is hockey game on at the time as a soccer game; I am obviously going to want to watch the hockey game.

    However in my case it may be true. I am much stronger in subjects such as Math and Science, opposed to subjects like ELA. I stand cross-benched with this debate. I don’t believe that our physical brains absorb information differently, I just believe that our brains are more capable of doing things when we have the mindset and are interested in the subject, which may vary between genders.

  9. Of many of the teachers that I have been taught by favored girls more than boys. I believe stereotypes between how boys and girls do in school do come into effect of their grades and how they are engaged. Boys are believed to excel higher in sciences and maths while girls do better in languages and social subjects. I think this is partly true because of a few reasons although I do not fully agree with it either.

    Most boys tend to be driven towards video games and girls tend to be driven towards social media like Instagram just like the video above explains. Social media is language based which fit into English Language Arts. This creates different strengths between most boys and girls depending on what they normally do in their daily lives, as many boys do excel in sciences and math.

    I personally, am a part of both groups of subjects that are believed to fit a specific gender. This shows how many other boys or girls in the school can have different likes and dislikes of courses. I believe every student has their own preference of what they like to learn and how they like to learn regardless of gender.

    In some cases, however, teachers perceive differently depending on the gender of a student. The teacher’s favoritism of one gender can affect the overall look from the teacher when marking. This may result in very different marks between genders but if the names of the assignments were anonymous, the scores may have been similar. This has been done in a few classes in some schools. This also explains that the stereotypes of boys and girls fitting into certain subjects are not always true.

  10. I think in my opinion, the definition of learning has changed. Therefore for some people it could mean memorizing and for some it could be applying the thing that you learned. However, it really does not matter what learning is defined as, we learn everyday new things. As Chason said learning is basically figuring out something and applying and using it. For example if i burnt my hand with a lighter i would realize it’s hot and light something up with it.

    Also I think it really doesn’t matter if you are a boy or not. I believe how you are raised really puts a difference. It really doesn’t matter if you are a girl or a boy i think what your environment is what matters. So I don’t think we should make different classes for boys and girls, but I think that they should get extra help if needed or be forced if they cannot see that they need help.

  11. I think the way how we learn is almost pure memorization. For example we memorize all the Science formulas or names. I think there are a few subjects where we do have limited memorization for example Math or CCW. In math you can memorize the formulas for the question but you still have to think about the question and apply them properly as well and in math there is one answer that you can’t memorize. In CCW for example we have very little memorization but rather our tests are based almost purely on opinion and some memorization. Although some do not like this kind of teaching because they can’t study extensively. I think that learning is something we do everyday and can apply to everyday life and can use everyday and not just use it once and forget about it.

    I don’t think that teachers gear their classes for one gender but I do think that some teachers are biased towards one gender and give them better marks, or are biased toward some specific individuals. I do know some teachers that I have had are biased towards to one specific gender not saying any names.

  12. Do teachers gear courses and learning experiences for a particular sex?

    How do we learn? Everyone has a different way of learning and teachers all have their different way of teaching. When we think of learning, we think of sitting down in a class and being told whats right from wrong and our brains absorb the key facts, but don’t necessarily apply them for later in life skills.

    I first would like to pose the question that today in the 21’st century, is there really a “boy” “girl” difference? Yes physically but learning about the gender-bread man, many people are mentally whatever they want. Since it is the 21’st century, there is a great increase in the LGBT community. I do not see how teachers can gear their teaching a “Girl or Boy” way, what really is the difference?

    An issue has been risen among many schools in Canada raising the question “Do teachers gear courses and learning experiences for a particular sex?” I personally believe that teachers do not gear their teaching towards a specific sex. This may be because I am a female and I do not feel any kind of gender gap in the teaching. This could be because the teaching is supposedly geared towards me.
    I do believe that teachers, when marking a paper (which is marked based on teachers opinion and argument) have some baggage in their marking strategies. I do not think of their marking being boy /girl, but it is definitely marked on the teachers feelings towards that person.

  13. Every students has their own way of learning and know what is best for them. Same goes to teachers, they all have their own way of teaching.

    Everyone is different. We all have our own unique way of learning or studying.

    My question is “Is there a difference between girls and boys.” To me I feel like our brain works the same.

    The way you feel have a big impact on how you are learning. Many students enjoys the subjects they are good at more than the ones they are not so good at. The subjects they are not good at they might think is too hard or is confusing. These negative thoughts can cause the students to dislike the subject and just be like “oh whatever, I am gonna fail this anyways so why work hard.” then they are not gonna want to learn. This is all about how you feel about something. The way you feel will affect the way you learn.

  14. We as people are all unique and different and have different styles and ways of absorbing information and we all have different methods as to how we teach and learn.
    I do not think that the teachers mark differently based on gender, or guide the teaching towards certain genders. Although I do think that sometimes teachers may tend to mark based on how you act in their class and based on the teachers feelings towards the person.
    I think the marks you receive can be because of many things, there are those who study and those who don’t care much about the marks. I think a big thing though is if you are struggling in a class the way you feel towards the class becomes affected and you start to care less about the marks and the class as a whole. Ways to prevent that is going for help, which although may sound terrible it will help you to improve.
    I know from my own experience that the classes I enjoy I try harder in because it interests me and I want to do well in things that I enjoy but when it comes to classes of less interest to me I become bored and uninterested.
    Overall I think that the marks we receive are not based on gender rather it is based on your feelings towards the class.

  15. Before I answer the questions provided, I would like to address the problem of why we learn in the first place. Winston Churchill, a famous politician in the UK said, “Personally I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught”. People like to learn to find out what they are interested in, but being taught can often be constricting.
    Now Im going to get to the questions. How do we learn? First thing first, what is learning? Learning is how you consume knowledge, and apply it to your everyday lives. After reading through most of the arguments presented, one thing I have decided is that there is no one way to learn. But the fact remains that we all strive to learn. Why? My opinion is that knowledge, equals power. I feel proud when I am arguing with someone, and I win because I know the facts better then them. The way I like to learn is memorizing facts, and being able to prove that I have knowledge to people either by using that knowledge on tests, or debating.
    In my opinion teachers do not gear courses towards what is known about differences in boys and girls and their development stages during school age. Rather than teaching a curriculum, it may be better for educators to focus on encouraging a passion for learning and target boys learning and girls learning to their strengths.

  16. Many of my peers have responded based mainly upon personal experience, so I feel the need to respond in a contrary fashion. The chemistries of male and female brains are not the same and often lead to very different behaviour. I feel the solution suggested in the video is foolish; the system is failing, therefore we should change our expectations of males in the system? To me that makes no logical sense. If the system fails half of the population, then we need to change the system to accommodate them. I’m no psychologist, so I don’t know the specific needs of males and females in education, but they need to be addressed.

  17. I have come to the conclusion that what CBC brought up In terms of boys and girls education is a very important conversation that schools should be having. For me as an example learning is understanding. For example, a science concept, for me to real learn the concept I have to review it till I understand it. In addition, I also don’t think that teachers gear courses and learning experiences for a particular sex. I believe this because even though the data shows that boys are less involved in school the standard should be set so they won’t stop trying and putting forward some sort of effort during school.

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