“New studies tell us that it is the environment we create for our children that has the greatest impact on the way they learn and what they learn.” – Dr. Gail Gross
Young Boys Learning Styles are Different Than Girls
Are we really supporting our boys to reach their highest potential at home and at school? Well, studies show we, as parents and educators, have a lot of room for improvement in terms of helping our young men obtain adequate supports in the educational (and home environment). The neurology of boys’ brains absolutely is distinct from that of their sisters (Gurian, 2006), especially in young children. Interestingly enough, as boys and girls develop, there is more commonality in brain structure, and by 12th grade, differences between boys’ and girls’ neurology is very subtle (Gross, 2014). More and more, studies show that home environment, friendships, and interests all shape older children’s brains more than any other influence.
For our young boys, we, as parents and educators, can exert the most influence on the developing brains of the next generation of men. Below are some key points which highlight the difference in brain structure between boys and girls and how this impacts learning in young boys:
*Boys’ brains tend to be more lateralized. In other words, they use one side of the brain hemisphere for specific tasks, whereas girls tend to integrate both sides of their brain for external tasks (like speaking, navigating one’s environment). Boys’ brains are also slightly larger than girls brains. Boys tend to be more single-task driven, whereas girls are hard-wired earlier on for multi-tasking (Gurian, 2006).
*Testosterone levels rise earlier and more prominently in boys which in turn affects the development and survival of specific neurons in the brain. Girls have more serotonin and oxytocin in their brains at a young age, which allows girls to be more socially engaged and cued in to tending and befriending relationships (Sax, 2009).
*Girl babies are a bit more advanced with neurological development in verbal, sensory, cognitive, speech, and emotional aspects.
*Boys do catch up with their sisters by age three in the visual-spatial component of development (hand-eye coordination, navigation, mental rotation).
*Boys learn best through movement. Kinesthetic educational opportunities (hands-on experiments with tangible manipulatives also involving body movements) can help boys to be more engaged in learning (Gurian, 2006). Boys have more physiological need to discharge their energy and engage in playful rough-housing and also at times apprppriately channeled aggression (i.e. competitive sports).
*Boys’ brains need more rest periods than girls’ brains. There are times during the day where boy’s brains may need to “zone out” or “chill.” Developing rest periods for boys during intense learning is helpful to support academic success.
*75% of special education students are boys. Many are misdiagnosed with a learning disability when in fact some of the high energy or issue with focus and concentration may very well be an unsupportive educational environment which does not honor the physiological needs for boys to learn through movement (see above) (Gurian, 2006). Children with learning disabilities (male or female) are often stigmatized because of their disability, which then further impacts self-worth and academic achievement. Supportive educational environments which embrace all learning styles are essential to the emotional health of both boys and girls.
Most studies are now showing that with brain plasticity and maturity, as a child enters the end of high school, brain differences between genders become negligible (Gross, 2014). It is the influence of home environment, peers and educators that makes the biggest difference in bridging these developmental gaps between boys and girls. Earlier on in development, boys do have more vulnerability by virtue of their own unique neurological development. Therefore, our boys need and deserve pathways of learning and nurturance that empower their brain structures to develop at the pace, forum and framework which supports boys’ unique neurological underpinnings from birth onward.
Retrieved from March 9, 2018: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-gail-gross/how-boys-and-girls-learn-differently_b_5339567.html
Retrieved from March 9, 2018: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/girl-brain-boy-brain/
Retrieved from March 9, 2018: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/11/brains-men-and-women-aren-t-really-different-study-finds
Retrieved from March 9, 2018: https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/1380-are-there-any-differences-in-the-development-of-boys-and-girls-brains
Gurian, M. (2006). The wonder of boys. New York: Tarcher-Putnam.
Sax, L. (2009). Boys adrift: the five factors driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving men, Basic Books.