How boys learn differently to girls

“Boys will be boys” is muttered as boys fidget or zone out in the middle of a class analysing Shakespearean poetry. But it isn’t their fault. To describe a boy as being disengaged or easily distracted is to fail to appreciate what makes a boy, a boy. So how do boys learn differently to girls?

A key strength of an all-boys school is that they harness and celebrate male qualities — they address the specific needs of boys, they facilitate boys’ essential developmental milestones, they understand boys’ need for peer relationships, and assist in their risk-taking and competitive nature.

Here are several ways boys learn differently to girls:

1. Boys are active learners

Author Michael Gurian writes that biologically, girls produce more serotonin and oxytocin than boys, resulting in a calmer demeanour and an ability to sit still easier for longer periods of time than their male classmates. Boys, on the other hand, have a more defined cerebral cortex, which results in being more active, energetic, playfully aggressive with a kinaesthetic propensity in their learning process.

For boys to flourish in their learning, they need an environment where the teaching style encourages kinaesthetic learning that supports boys’ biology. By ensuring your son’s school has a recess program including unstructured playtime, encouraging him to take study breaks and allowing him to be active during these breaks helps him to stay engaged and focused.

2. Boys are collaborative learners

Being surrounded with male teachers and older boys can positively influence you son’s behaviour in significant ways. This is because they can truly understand younger boys and know how to motivate and communicate with them effectively. Often boys enjoy male bonding in the form of innocent banter — helping your son to find lifelong friendships and learn how to be emotionally literate.

Ensure that your son is exposed to positive male role models, such as teachers, family, coaches and older friends who emphasise the importance of education. Parental involvement with accountability and helping your son to stay organised in his studies is also very important.

3. Boys are hands-on learners

Gurian says that, “Boys do their best work when teachers establish authentic purpose and meaningful, real-life connections.” Boys are more interested in ideas that can directly apply to their lives. Though book learning is essential, without practical hands-on experience, boys will have a hard time understanding concepts that seem quite simple and will actually disengage from their lessons. Boys need a real-world application in their education.

Girls, on the other hand, generally don’t require this practical element. They are much more capable in understanding concepts and theories better, particularly when stories and emotions are involved.

With the different ways boys and girls are wired, teachers and parents ultimately need to respond to their differences appropriately. We should not put labels on boys and tell them off for misbehaving, but rather we must remember boys learn differently to girls and adapt to their needs and characteristics. This will help your son flourish.

 At Christ Church Grammar School, we understand the motivational drivers in education and, in particular, what motivates boys. This understanding backed by research forms the basis of how we teach — our Pedagogy. Download our Pedagogy handbook to discover the methodology behind everything we do and how we motivate boys to be their best.

Download Pedagogy handbook