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Yes, boys and girls really DO learn differently

Yes, boys and girls really DO learn differently


Sanders is the Dean of Academics & Assistant Head of Lower School at Davidson Academy

In the first part of this series, we considered the question, “Do boys and girls really learn differently?”  The most direct and obvious answer to this question is yes.  You don’t have to be a parent or professional of any kind that works directly with children very long before you notice the preferential and behavioral differences of each gender.

We, as educators and parents, intuitively sense that boys and girls grow and learn differently; and, likewise, the past few decades have produced a significant amount of brain research from multiple medical and psychological studies that validates and clearly indicates the noticeable differences in boys and girls.

In this conclusion, we will respond to the question, How could understanding these differences increase our effectiveness as parents and educators?”

The table below is based on the research of Dr. Michael Gurian, a renowned family psychologist and New York Times bestselling author, along with Kathy Stevens, an educator that is an international presenter and coauthor of the best-selling book, Boys & Girls Learn Differently:  A Guide for Teachers and Parents.  In the book, they present neuro-biology and classroom research together to reveal just how boys and girls are created differently and therefore learn differently.  The following are just a few of the brain-based differences in girls and boys.

Girls tend to… Boys tend to…
  • Have better hearing than boys and may find “loud” or repetitive noises distracting.
  • Have worse hearing than girls and may lose attention simply because they can’t hear.
  • Are better at object discrimination, i.e. “What is it?”
  • Are better at object location, i.e. “Where is it?”
  • Will focus on faces and things. “Girls draw nouns using warm colors.”
  • Will focus on movement.  “Boys draw verbs using cold colors.”
  • Can explain and describe their feelings.
  • Find it difficult to talk about feelings.
  • Multitask well and make easy transitions.
  • Focus on a task and transition more slowly.


As previously stated, there are overlapping characteristics of both genders. However, the above table identifies a sampling of the differences in boys’ and girls’ developmental learning.  Knowing and understanding these characteristics can further empower us to direct our teaching and parenting approaches.  In other words, we can consider both genders with regard to establishing and enforcing expectations at home or in the classroom.  A few practical examples include relating these characteristics to seating assignments, verbal and non-verbal instructions, and disciplinary procedures.  When we establish routines and expectations that are aligned with how each gender “thinks” (processes information) and his or her ability to respond, we are closer to the meaningful and positive outcomes we all want to see our students achieve.

Since 1980, Davidson Academy, a vibrant, interdenominational Christian school serving more than 725 students, partners with families of students ages 3 through 12th grade to help equip them for college, life, and eternity. With an appropriate approach to homework based on age and grade level, our students far exceed all state and national testing scores.

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