Seeing ] Hearing ] Engaging ] Processing ] Responding ] [ Choosing ]



Gender Differences in How Boys and Girls “Choose” the World


Gender differences are based upon groups and averages.  They are not meant to define an individual.  Educators should use gender differences in the same way that they use information regarding multiple intelligences, learning styles, prior experiences, human development, etc.  Information allows a teacher to better understand and interpret her or his students.


I do not conduct research myself.  I read texts, reviews, and articles about gender, gender differences, boys, girls, and education and try to make it accessible to educators and meaningful within classroom instruction.  As such, I have grouped recent research into six broad differences:  Seeing, Hearing, Engaging, Processing, Responding, and Choosing.


There are some important points that must be made before moving forward.


The passages listed below were selected because they all relate to the issue of choice, decision making, or self-concept.  Educators need not agree with all of these passages, but they should be aware of recent information on how “choosing” affects the learning of students.


  1. A girl who feels the need to please will sacrifice a lot of herself – her feelings, her intuition, her judgment, her ambitions, and her dreams – to keep others happy.  Girls Will Be Girls Page 223 
  2. A misguided notion that being tough is the defining characteristic of masculinity is dangerous for black males.  This prevents them from making rational decisions when confronted with life-threatening situations.  Many of these young men would rather risk death than be viewed as a punk.  Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males, page 44
  3. Another benefit rendered by community programs is that they afford girls chances to potentially resolve their issues in the context of single-sex gatherings.  Data suggests that this strategy of single-sex groupings has even proven successful with adults who are coping with serious issues like drug addiction and domestic violence.  Single-sex gatherings afford participants with the freedom to drop artifice and engage in the hard work of identity exploration and character building.  Talkin’ Back:  Raising and Educating Resilient Black Girls, Page 71.
  4. As we’ll discuss more in this book, boys who do share their feelings often take longer to do so than girls go. …The fourth step involves what I call connection through action.  This means that rather than nudging a boy to sit down and share his feelings with us, we begin by simply joining him in an activity that he enjoys.  Real Boys Page 8 
  5. As we’ll discuss more in this book, boys who do share their feelings often take longer to do so than girls go. …The fourth step involves what I call connection through action.  This means that rather than nudging a boy to sit down and share his feelings with us, we begin by simply joining him in an activity that he enjoys.  Real Boys, page 8.
  6. Bear in mind that in order for your students to be motivated to excel, your students must first have goals.  They should be required to set goals for each marking period and post them on the wall, and to write down their strategies for achieving each goal.  Motivating Black Males, page 11
  7. Even in high school, however, the boys’ more autonomous approach to their school work is indicated in the greater selectivity of their efforts:  boys are likely to do well in subjects that interests them and poorly in subjects that bore them, while girls tend to perform uniformly in all their school subjects (Coleman, 1961)  The Development of Sex Differences, page32
  8. Even when discussions result in the realization that there are no simple solutions for problems, they may help adolescent girls to develop a more authentic sense of who they are in the context of their culture.  Discovering Their Voices, page 19.
  9. For boys the risks are proportionately greater [for addiction].  Given the hardwiring of the male brain, most boys already have a predisposition to take risks.  They are driven to be competitive and to win; they are more physically active and have a real need to move.   Boys in Crisis  Page 38          
  10. Girls have strict social hierarchies based on what our culture tells us about what constitutes ideal femininity.  But who is the prime enforcer of these standards?  The movies?  The teen magazines?  Nope, it’s the girls themselves.  Queen Bees and Wanna Bees, Page 10.
  11. Good Girls, who are expected to follow rules and appear perfect, are taught to make little room for risk.  Building your daughter’s comfort with risk will therefore mean embracing a balanced approach to failure, and the ability to honor, even celebrate, being wrong.  The Curse of the Good Girl, page 222.
  12. I have found no evidence showing that students who employ violence in their stories actually commit violence (proving cause and effect would, in any case, be devilishly difficult). Misreading Masculinity  Page 94    
  13. In contrast to boys, who tend to view their success as a matter of natural mathematical talent, girls are likelier to credit their success to “hard work.”  Pink Brain, Blue Brain, Page 237
  14. In many science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines, women are outperformed by men in test scores, jeopardizing their success in science-oriented courses and careers. The current study tested the effectiveness of a psychological intervention, called values affirmation, in reducing the gender achievement gap in a college-level introductory physics class. In this randomized double-blind study, 399 students either wrote about their most important values or not, twice at the beginning of the 15-week course. Values affirmation reduced the male-female performance and learning difference substantially and elevated women's modal grades from the C to B range. Benefits were strongest for women who tended to endorse the stereotype that men do better than women in physics. A brief psychological intervention may be a promising way to address the gender gap in science performance and learning.   Reducing the Gender Achievement Gap in College Science, (2010).
  15. In middle-class White culture, girls are socially constructed as silent, docile, inactive, congenial, and frivolous.  Urban Black girls do not fit this Victorian prototype perpetuated by European-American culture.  Moreover, their realities do not allow them to be trivialized.  As a social institution, schools contribute to socializing girls into their gender roles, and society benefits from keeping girls in these restricted roles.  Thus, what appears to be insubordination may be due to a cultural disconnection between Black girls and their White and middle-class teachers.  Teaching Black Girls, Page 154.
  16. It is essential that girls on the path of developing resilience recognize and listen to their inner voice.  Through knowing one’s voice girls and young women develop their self-knowledge, self-belief, and self-efficacy.  Nurturing the Gifted Female, page 50
  17. It is, for example, well documented that males are less likely to acknowledge personal difficulty, and are much less likely than females to seek advise (Jamsen 2001).  Misreading Masculinity  Page 38 
  18. Most female brains are activated in several areas of the cortex and the limbic system, the emotional center of the brain.  She is not only trying to calculate the answer, but also worrying that if she gets it wrong, the teacher will be upset; or if she gets it right, her boyfriend will think she is nerd!  Girls Will Be Girls Page 229 
  19. Not getting to find out why someone’s mad often has the unfortunate effect of making targeted girls believe that whatever’s gone wrong is surely their fault.  Odd Girl Out, page 46
  20. Rather, I am challenging the claims made for this literature [traditional novel texts] and the implicit (or explicit) moral hierarchy that sets this type of reading above more popular forms of literary activity.  Misreading Masculinity  Page 79
  21. Show immediate respect by calling the boy by his last name, e.g., “Mr. Johnson” or even “Scholar Johnson.”  Keeping Black Boys Out of Special Education, Page 99.
  22. Since girls often refuse to talk to one another when they’re mad, middle girls are critical players in the conflict process.  Odd Girl Out, page 84
  23. The boys were also more likely to report feeling exhilarated by the simulated collision, whereas girls were far more likely to report feeling fearful.   So: one reason many boys engage in physically dangerous activities may be that the danger itself gives the activity a pleasant tingle.  Why Gender Matters: Page 43
  24. The curse has created a peer culture where taking responsibility for mistakes indelibly marks your reputation and where the rules for social success are at odds with being honest.  Under such absolute terms of being, confrontation is experienced as a major violation:  if I am not nice, I must be mean, and if I am mean, I am not Good.  The Curse of the Good Girl, page 53.
  25. There is often a deeply social subtext to stories that might appear individualistic and combative.  For many or even most boys it makes no sense to claim that competition (or conflict) and collaboration are opposed ideals; rather, boys regularly collaborate through combative play.  Misreading Masculinity  Page 121  
  26. These studies tell us that there may indeed by inborn differences in the orbital prefrontal cortex [earlier development in boys] that bias boys toward greater risk taking and lower fear.  Pink Brain, Blue Brain, page 284
  27. They like to know that there is only one right answer … For now, I will just say that it is widely seen and accepted that most girls are far less open to ambiguity, and therefore risk-taking, than boys. … So it doesn’t take much to close down a girl’s divergent thinking.   Girls Will Be Girls, page 26.
  28. This empirical study explores the gender difference in two heuristic methods: collaborative learning and individual learning with hints. We constructed four experimental conditions: collaborative learning with hints, collaborative learning without hints, individual learning with hints, and individual learning without hints. Ninety-nine students from a secondary school in Shanghai participated in the study which had a pre- and posttest design. Besides the individual learning without hints condition, we found a significant gender difference in the collaborative learning without hints condition within which male students outscored female students. But this was not the case in the other two conditions: collaboration with hints and individual learning with hints. Based on these results, some suggestions for future research and practical implementation are offered.  Ding, Ning (2009)
  29. This research shows that in addition to including more violence in their stories, the boys create major protagonists who often act alone where girls tends to focus on joint action, on working with others in community (McAuliffe 193-1994; Trepanier-Street, Romatowski, and McNair 1990).  Misreading Masculinity  Page 120-121 
  30. We found that the young men in our study gravitated to activities that provided the appropriate level of challenge.  Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys, page 34.
  31. When gifted women decide they’d rather be doctors than physicists, teachers, not engineers, they’re opting to study and spend time with people, not things.  Many are demonstrating a capacity to be attuned to others.  It’s a proclivity that has a very long history, and as we’ll soon see, one that makes women feel pretty good.  The Sexual Paradox, Page 91
  32. While the kids I interviewed accepted, even endorsed, limits on the depiction of violence, they adamantly insisted on the necessity of violence in their stories, particularly their favorite genre of fiction, horror stories (Millard 2001).  Misreading Masculinity  Page 110