Entries in Male-Friendly Classrooms (32)


Why boys need a boyhood to become good men |


Boys struggling to find their self-worth ... Photo: Getty Images

Given the current deep community outpourings of concern for the senseless violence present on Australian streets at night, the disturbing numbers of little boys being suspended and expelled from our schools, and the decreasing numbers of young men attending and graduating university, something is going wrong in the world of our boys.

I lay blame on society, which seems to have stolen boyhood in the name of a sanitised, politically correct, gender neutral, bland childhood.

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Why schools are failing our boys


The system is leaving boys behind ... Photo: Getty Images

Boys will be boys, they tell us, but how many of us actually take this adage to heart and embrace it?

I am the mother of four boys, now all adults. If I think back to their childhoods and adolescence, it’s a whirlwind of movement and physicality, adventure and injury, rough and tumble play, of fart jokes and stinky sports shoes, short and to-the-point communication, and lots and lots of food and Milo. (Actually, it’s not so different when we all get together now.)

This description of life with boys won’t surprise most people – and yet why is it that the one place where children spend most of their time, school, is so stacked against meeting boys’ needs?

A recent survey in WA found that girls are starting to outperform boys in maths and science, which hasn’t been the case previously. Fantastic news for our girls – these fields badly need some gender balance, but it’s a shame if it’s at boys’ expense. We are also seeing disturbing numbers of boys in remedial classes and in behaviour management units in our schools across the country.

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The Boys at the Back -


Illustration by Ben Javens

Boys score as well as or better than girls on most standardized tests, yet they are far less likely to get good grades, take advanced classes or attend college. Why? A study coming out this week in The Journal of Human Resources gives an important answer. Teachers of classes as early as kindergarten factor good behavior into grades — and girls, as a rule, comport themselves far better than boys.

The study’s authors analyzed data from more than 5,800 students from kindergarten through fifth grade and found that boys across all racial groups and in all major subject areas received lower grades than their test scores would have predicted.

The scholars attributed this “misalignment” to differences in “noncognitive skills”: attentiveness, persistence, eagerness to learn, the ability to sit still and work independently. As most parents know, girls tend to develop these skills earlier and more naturally than boys.

No previous study, to my knowledge, has demonstrated that the well-known gender gap in school grades begins so early and is almost entirely attributable to differences in behavior. The researchers found that teachers rated boys as less proficient even when the boys did just as well as the girls on tests of reading, math and science. (The teachers did not know the test scores in advance.) If the teachers had not accounted for classroom behavior, the boys’ grades, like the girls’, would have matched their test scores.

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Education system is biased towards girls, yet we do nothing

The Weekend Australian, Saturday December 22, 2012

Australia’s feminised curriculum puts boys at a significant disadvantage

Angela Shanahan

IT is an experience I have relived eight times, the stomach churning anticipation as we wait in agony for the tertiary entrance results. But today the boy, my last at school, is not like that. No one waits for the post, twisting their hanky and muttering Hail Marys any more.

He screeches down the driveway with a cheery wave, P plates askew, posse of friends in tow, to collect the ATAR score. He already has a pretty good idea of his marks. Flunking is no problem these days because there are numerous ways to overcome that, and he won’t.

Anyway, he informs me, he is doing a gap year to get away from the "stress". Although the source of this stress was not obvious to his mother and father, since the ACT doesn’t even have a public exam.

So education isn’t what it used to be. At least it isn’t for a lot of my son’s male contemporaries. Was it a big shock when you read that Australia is scoring very badly in international tests? It should not have been.

Australian children have been subject to haphazard experiments in reading and writing for a very long time. And not just reading and writing, but in all aspects of pedagogy and curriculum. The ones who have really suffered from all this are the boys.

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Male Educators' Perspectives on Best Practices for Enhancing the Teaching and Learning of Boys in Single-Sex Classrooms by Douglas Gosse

Overall, Canadian boys have greater literacy problems than girls. Boys also voice more disengagement with school, account for most suspensions, drop out of school, and commit suicide at significantly greater rates. Minority boys are particularly at risk.

The results of this study arise from four weeks of data collection in an inner city school, grades 7-8, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Most of the students are of African, Caribbean, and South Asian immigrant backgrounds, where English is not the primary language at home, and whose families live below the poverty line. Methods include semi-structured interviews, observations, document analysis, and an in-depth literature review on boys and learning within single-sex and co-educational settings, and thematic analysis. I sought the perspectives of the principal, and two teachers of grades 7 and 8, all boys’ classes, to determine effective teaching and learning approaches and strategies within these demographics.

Results indicate that these minority boys display: enhanced engagement, participation, and sense of belonging; fewer office referrals and better attendance; a challenging of hegemonic masculine traits, such as homophobia and professed boredom with school subjects often dismissed as ‘gay’, ‘sissy’, or ‘girly’, including language arts and, especially, music; greater opportunities for positive peer and male adult role modeling. These benefits are contingent on a shared vision between the principal and key homeroom teachers, joint development of a positive school and classroom ethos, high expectations, and overt commitment to differentiation.

From New Male Studies: An International Journal - Vol. 1, Issue 3, 2012, pp. 32-76.

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