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Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens
A middle school teacher told us recently, "Boys in a classroom should be one of the most fun things in life. Boy energy can be contagious, after all. But in my school, we talk mostly about difficulties we're having with boys. We need help understanding and teaching them. We've got to stop losing that boy energy from our schools."
Everywhere around us, boys want to learn, but they aren't learning as well as girls are. Teachers know or sense the statistics: boys get the majority of Ds and Fs and the minority of As; they are behind on state tests in all 50 states; and they drop out of high school at higher rates than girls. Many boys feel that they are inherently defective in today's education world.
Over the last two decades, we have developed professional development systems for solving boys' low achievement in school. We first tested these solutions in a successful two-year pilot study in six Missouri school districts. Over the last decade, we've trained teachers in more than 2,000 schools and districts, developing a Logic Model for teaching boys effectively. This "boy-friendly" model focuses on improving learning for boys so that they no longer feel defective as learners, which increases motivation and diminishes rates of acting out and failure; the model increases girls' achievement and performance, as well.
A number of schools in our research base have closed gender gaps, raised student performance, and made adequate yearly progress within a year of instituting the Teaching Boys Effectively Logic Model. Among the practical strategies in which their teachers have been trained and coached, these 10 constitute both a research and performance baseline for success.
In all gender initiatives in which we and our team are involved, we encourage schools and districts to conduct parent involvement sessions so that parents can work together with teachers. Research-driven, science-based, and strategies-focused innovations need teamwork from everyone, including the students themselves. The alienation of boys in our classrooms is not a one-teacher issue: it is a problem in education culture as a whole, and a problem for which there are specific solutions.
Boys are wonderful learners and can learn as well as girls. Through the disruptions they cause in classrooms and the low grades they get on report cards, through their glazed eyes and tapping feet, through their aggression or confusion on the playground, they are pleading: "We need a lot of help. We need teachers to understand how to teach us effectively, so that we succeed. We need schools to harness and challenge our powerful energy. We need everyone to remember: we're not just 'kids' or 'students'—we are boys."
Michael Gurian is the author of Boys and Girls Learn Differently and The Mind of Boys and founder of the Gurian Institute. Kathy Stevens is training director of the Gurian Institute, author of Strategies for Teaching Boys and Girls, and coauthor of The Mind of Boys.
ASCD Express, Vol. 6, No. 4. Copyright 2010 by ASCD. All rights reserved. Visit www.ascd.org/ascdexpress.
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