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Physiological Education Essay

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Paper type: Essay

Words: 1610, Paragraphs: 21, Pages: 7

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Harvard President Lawrence Summers caused quite a stir in January 2005 when he proposed that women are lagging behind in science and mathematics because of “innate differences between the sexes” (Angier and Chang, 2005). Angier and Chang at the New York Times agree. They write that research has found that there are a lot of discrepancies–the architecture of their brains, in quantitative test scores, attitudes toward math and science–between men and women (Angier and Chang, 2005).

The New York Times report found that boys have outscored girls in the math part of the SATs by as much as 35 points, while verbal scores are very similar.

On the other hand, the report notes that there are more boys with attention-deficit disorder, learning disabilities, and autism (Angier and Chang, 2005). Boys, on the other hand, fare rather poorly with reading and writing. NAEP writing tests results in 2003 showed that boys scored 24 points lower than girls. The trend can be seen as early as the fourth grade all the way through college (Connell and Gunzelmann, 2004).

Kate Melville explains that girls mainly use a system that is involves more memorization and association of words, while boys rely on a system the deals with the rules of language. Melville, citing a study by Michael Ullman, adds that both boys and girls are using different neurocognitive brain processes in learning language, and information processing (Melville, 2006). Jasna Jovanovic and Candice Dreves sums it up in saying that over the years, the notion is that boys have superior spatial abilities, which helps them in math. While girls are better at language and writing (1995).

Do girls learn differently from boys? This paper will provide proof that they indeed do, and will try to delve into why and how they learn differently. Lastly it looks into recommendations for addressing such learning disparities between the genders. Preferences in Learning Styles Erica Wehrwein and her fellow researchers identify the learning style preferences of students to include visual, auditory, read-write, and kinesthetic. They also found that a little more than half of the females preferred a single mode of presenting information, as opposed to only 12.

5% of males (Wehrwein, et. al. , 2007). More than a third of the females favored the kinesthetic mode, followed by the read-write mode at16. 7% (Wehrwein, et. al. , 2007). On the other hand, boys preferred auditory, read-write and kinesthetic evenly (Wehrwein, et. al. , 2007). The researchers conclude that there is a significance difference in learning style preferences between boys and girls. Brain-based Differences Nikhil Swaminathan at the Scientific American says that a growing body of studies over since the 1960s have documented that girls have superior language skills.

Swaminathan cites a journal report from the Neuropsychologia that says that girls completing a linguistic-related task showed greater activity in the areas of the brain that are responsible for language encoding, and abstract deciphering of information. The boys showed more activities in the visual and auditory areas, depending on how the words were presented (Swaminathan, 2008). Swaminathan concludes that in a classroom, it implies that boys have to be taught visually and orally (through texts and lecture) to gain a full understanding of the lesson, while girls can pick up the concepts by using one of either (Swaminathan, 2008).

The study monitored the brain activities of 62 kids (31 of each) from 9 to 15 years old (Swaminathan, 2008). CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin cites a study conducted by University of California at Irvine psychologist Richard Haire, which shows that at the very least, men’s and women’s brains work differently (Kaledin, 2005). Kaledin also cites Dr. Jay Geidd’s studies showing that boys and girls have different brain development, with girls’ brains maturing faster than boy’s, except in the area involved in mechanical skills (Kaledin, 2005).

Dr. Leonard Sax offers a much more empirical example, saying that at 12, the geometry area in a girl’s brain is equal to that of an 8 year old boy, while the language area of a boy’s brain is three or four years behind that of a girl’s brain. Dr. Sax concludes that boys and girls see, hear and respond differently (Kaledin, 2005). The Environment’s Role In an interview Parent News, Jasna Jovanovic stresses that there are no genetically-based differences between girls and boys.

Jovanovic, however, says that girls will benefit more from teaching methods that include performance-based assessments, hands-on, active approaches, and cooperative learning. Jovanovic also reiterated that the difference might lie in the child’s environment. Jovanovic laments that societal expectations and stereotypes tell girls that they are not good in math or science, so they shouldn’t be very interested in it (Understanding Gender… , undated). Jovanovic participated in a single-sex education in grades K-12 roundtable discussion sponsored by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation.

Jovanovic’s view is shared by Barnard President Judith Shapiro who adding that while nature may form part of the loss of interest among girls in science, there is also the nurture part (Kaledin, 2005). Donna Milgram, expounding on the gender differences in math, science, engineering and technology, says that the reason why many girls are floundering in these areas is that they have less experience in the hands-on application of learning principles than boys. Milgram says that the studies show that gender differences, most likely, stems out of nurture, not nature (Milgram, undated).

Milgram adds that another important area of concern is that of perception and confidence. Females are most likely to succeed in science, engineering, technology and math if they feel confident that they could master it (Milgram, undated). Recommendations Jovanovic and Dreves recommends that child care providers and teachers give every child the chance to learn math and science. Staff should be trained on the equal treatment of boys and girls in the classroom, as well as be given the necessary resources and materials to give the children hands-on experiences in both subjects (Jovanovic and Dreves, 1995).

Jovanovic, in the Parents News interview, also suggests a smaller class size, a core curriculum approach, more personal relationships between teahcers, students and administrators, more higher-order thinking-related activities (Understanding Gender… , undated). Teachers, as well as students, need to be aware of learning style preferences. That way, they can tailor-fit their instruction, activities and tasks to optimize learning. Dr. Leonard Sax says that it’s very important to understand and pay more attention to the learning differences between girls and boys, and even in the differences in the way they develop.

Dr. Sax points out that if we continue to ignore these differences, chances are at age 13, we’d have girls who think they can’t do math and boys who think that poetry is a waste of time (Kaledin, 2005). * * * The body of evidence, the growing of research, the viewpoints held by various authorities may differ, at the very least, and contrasting and confusing at the most. What’s clear, however, is the fact that girls and boys differ in they ways that they learn something. It may be attributed to physiological factors, or it may stem from the child’s environment.

The debate, however, is important not because we need to determine whether boys are more intelligent than girls. That is way beside the point. Our role as educators is to make sure that our students learn, in a manner that’s easy for them. While suggestions have been brought to extremes like a single-sex classroom setting, the bulk of the responsibility rests on our shoulders. We need to understand these differences, be it physiological, or environmental. We need to understand our students. We need to understand their learning patterns.

Having understood their strengths, and the innate differences, we can tap it to make it easier for them to learn. We need to find out the proper and optimal mix of instruction, of lectures, of the use of materials and resources. We need to be creative, innovative in the classrooms and outside it, in order to capture our students and interests in they way they were wired to appreciate it. Lastly, and perhaps, most importantly, we need to create a supportive classroom environment where boys and girls can be themselves, and make both understand that each of them are there to learn in his or her own style and pace. It’s the only way we can safeguard their self-confidence and esteem.


Angier, Natalie and Chang, Kenneth. (2005). Gray Matter and Sexes: A Gray Area Scientifically. New York Times. Retrieved on 15 April 2008. <http://www. nytimes. com/2005/01/24/science/24women. html? oref=login&pagewanted=all&position=> Connell, Diane and Gunzelmann, Betsy. (2004). The New Gender Gap. The Instructor, March 2004. Retrieved on 15 April 2008. <http://teacher. scholastic. com/products/Instructor/Mar04_gendergap. htm> Kaledin, Elizabeth. (2005).

Intellectual Gender Gap? CBS News. Retrieved on 15 April 2008. <http://www. cbsnews. com/stories/2005/03/14/sunday/main679829. shtml> Jovanovic, J. and Dreves C. (1995). Math, science, and girls: Can we close the gender gap? University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved on 15 April 2008. <http://www. nncc. org/Curriculum/sac52_math. science. girls. html> Melville, Kate. (2006). Big Gender Differences In Language Learning.

Georgetown University Medical Center. Retrieved on 15 April 2008. <http://www. scienceagogo.com/news/20061029224800data_trunc_sys. shtml> Milgram, Donna. Gender Differences in Learning Style Specific to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Retrieved on 15 April 2008. <http://www. selfgrowth. com/articles/Gender_Differences_in_Learning_Style_Specific_to_Science_Technology_Engineering_and_Math_STEM. html> Swaminathan, Nikhil. (2008). Girl Talk: Are Women Really Better at Language? Scientific American. Retrieved on 15 April 2008. <http://www. sciam. com/article. cfm? id=are-women-really-better-with-language&print=true>

Understanding Gender Differences that May Occur in Classroom Settings. Adoption. Com. Retrieved on 15 April 2008. <http://library. adoption. com/Child-Development/Understanding-Gender-Differences-that-May-Occur-in-Classroom-Settings/article/3379/1. html> Wehrwein, Erica, Lujan Heidi and DiCarlo, Stephen. (2007). Gender differences in learning style preferences among undergraduate physiology students. Advances in Physiological Education. Retrieved on 15 April 2008. <http://advan. physiology. org/cgi/content/full/31/2/153>

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