Single sex classrooms: Do they offer advantages?Single sex classrooms: Do they offer advantages?

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clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As an English department, we decided one semester to split the 9th grade group of students who failed their end of course tests into two classes, one of boys, one of girls.  Novels choices were revolved around student interest and two different teachers took each class.

The all-female class thrived.  The girls were much more willing to talk during discussions, worked well together, and seemed to get more out of that English class than any of their other classes.  At the end of the semester, most agreed that it was one of the best classes they'd had.  There was one major fight issue that was even resolved within the class.

The all-male class, on the other hand, did not thrive.  The boys seemed to feed off each other's immaturity.  In a class where there was very little personal interest anyway, it was almost as if without any female students to take a lead in discussion, the boys gave up from the start.

The project wasn't deemed a complete failure, but certainly it shed light on a few things.  One, it seemed the girls are more intimidated and afraid to share their true feelings when boys are present.  They are much more likely to be themselves and be honest in front of other girls.  On the other hand, boys seem more likely to act older and attempt to achieve when females are present.  At least in an English classroom.

I often wonder how things might have been different if a different teacher had taken the boys class.  I think much of their attitudes and behavior had to do with a teacher who also had a hard time connecting with them.  Because, on the other hand, I've heard of entire middle schools which revolve around same sex classrooms, and more often than not, teachers say the all-male classes are the easiest to handle for behavior, and the boys seem to come out of their shells once they are used to a schedule free from females.

Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am excited to say that I have taught in both environments and, as a result, I agree 100% with clairewait (# 3 above).  My first experience was an inner city public school in Souch Carolina which, of course, was mixed gener.  My second experience was a private Catholic high school in Connecticut:  all girls.

I absolutely adored both experiences!  I will admit, though, that the second experience was incredibly "easy" for me, ... because I work the best with female students.  And although I personally thought it was easy, instead of stating my ease as one of the "advantages," I'll just say that this gives some credibility to the thoughts stated above about it taking the "right teacher" for these classrooms.  (Um, because I would NOT be the right teacher to teach all boys.)

That being said, the advantages I saw were precicely what clairewait described: willingness to participate in discussions, not distracted by hair/makeup/fashion, attentive and well-mannered, ... no testosterone to pave the way!  I'll even say that, with me being a woman, all of us felt like we were somehow in the same "club," so-to-speak. But it is VERY important to understand that with a single-sex class full of girls it is imperative (it's sad to say) that they "like" you, ... or you will be in for a heck of a time.  Just being honest.

Then there's the idea of an "all-boys" school.  Look at how many of our military schools thrive!  Hmmmm, but without capital punishment?  Good luck!  : )

MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have heard support for mixed classrooms as well as same-sex classrooms. As many have noted, the common narrative is that all female classes offer a comfortable environment for young women to step outside their sometimes rigid social roles. However, as an English teacher, I enjoy having mixed classrooms. Just as I would not want to teach an entire class of students from only one ethnic background, or only one socio-economic situation, etc., I would not want only males or females in my class. I think that particularly at the high school level, students need to hear and share experiences with their classmates, and be exposed to lives and opinions different from their own. This includes male/female perspectives. Yes, they are performing for each other, but I would need to see a homogenous class in action before I could be convinced that they wouldn't continue performing in the same sex class.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You're dealing with classroom chemistry, and that's a volatile and often unpredictable mix.  Tinkering with that mix is certainly worth looking into, but I'd have to see large scale data from numerous schools and states (outside of private schools) to confirm any advantages or draw conclusions.

I've never taught in a school that has tried this, but just based on two decades in the classroom working with students, I would think it would have some advantages. For one, in the early fall and late spring, the weather is nice and students wear generally less clothing.  The dress code is a constant battle.  If there were no boys to "dress down" for, perhaps there would be fewer distractions.

But it's not always the mix of genders that is a problem.  A room full of girls or boys could lead to different chemistry issues, not necessarily better or worse.


stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator
The key would lie in having the right teacher in each classroom, but with that condition fulfilled, I think there could be real advantages in separating the guys and the gals, particularly in the junior/middle school range. Raging hormones tend to be a huge distraction to the process of learning - at least learning about academic-type topics. Part of the teacher selection and preparation if a school were going to implement such an arrangement would need to involve insuring that the teachers of those classes were very prepared to invest a great deal of time and effort in first building the kinds of relationships with the students away from the academics that would later allow for academic achievement to become of primary importance. With that groundwork in place, however, I'm guessing there could be truly impressive results.
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is certainly a matter of opinion.  I would argue that single-sex classrooms do have advantages.  I think that this is particularly true in middle school and high school, especially in courses that are traditionally "boy" classes like math and science.

During the teen years, the two sexes are so acutely aware of one another that much of what they do in the classroom is designed to attract (or at least to avoid repelling) the opposite sex.  This can lead to boys acting out and girls avoiding looking too smart.  This is not good for either sex.  In addition, girls are often sent the message that they are not supposed to be good at math and science.  If they could take those classes in single sex classrooms, they might feel more capable of excelling instead of simply deferring to the boys.

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are arguments both ways for same sex classes; and there is substantial evidence on both sides; however my colleagues who have taught this way tell me that there experiences with same sex classes have not been good; particularly with classes of all girls, as therein seems to lie the discipline problems. There is more involved here than attention from the opposite sex. Kids vie with each other for attention and peer approval regardless of class makeup. A far better solution to classroom problems would be smaller classes rather than another gimmick. Several schools in my district tried same sex classes but when there was no appreciable increase in test scores and actually an increase in disciplinary problems, it was soon abandoned.

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have an even balance of gender in my senior class for the first time in years, and the quality of discussion has certainly been livelier and broader. In formerly female-dominated groups there has been a real rivalry of pettiness (usually associated with outside issues, but brought in to the classroom), whereas with a mixed group the students seem more willing to enagage in a wider range of texts. Personally I would far rather have a class of all boys than all girls if I had to teach single sex. I would agree that boys can be less mature, but girls can be so cruel with each other and stronger girls can intimidate less confident individuals.

alexb2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are advantages, but I believe they are outweighed by the disadvantages. Within the classroom, segregation may allow some students to focus more seriously on the conversation or lesson at hand, without the need to impress members of the opposite gender. Some studies have shown that girls are more likely to speak in an all-female classroom than in a mixed classroom.

The big disadvantage is obvious- in the working world, discussions and agreements must take place between men and woman, so a segregated classroom may make the student less understanding others and less prepared to operate in a normal environment.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am not in favor of classes segregated by sex, but I think the primary advantage would be that the kids in the class are less likely to be thinking about the opposite sex, since there are none around them to distract them from their studies. That's really about the only advantage I can see. I once had a middle school principal who had taught at a Catholic school that did segregate the classrooms by sex. She preferred this arrangement, and would have instituted it at our school had it not been prohibited. 

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I personally like to have a mix in classes -- especially in a literature discussion -- because males and females can't help but bring a strong gender-based perspective to the conversation.  It is easy for one sex or the other to "think" they know how the other would feel or react to a piece of literature, but is not necessarily reality.  In the past, my AP Literature classes were female dominated, but in the past few years I have had a more equal balance and I have really enjoyed it more.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I agree with number 3. All boy classes are some teachers' worst nightmare! I don't like the idea that some girls don't want to be smart around boys, or vice versa. However, I know it's true in some cases. In middle and high school, students are constantly distracted by boy-girl issues. However, it's good practice for adult relationships.
audreyeabbott | Student

Yes. In my personal experience, learning in a single sex classroom allowed for a more open and participatory environment. I would argue that women were more focused and felt more comfortable and confident participating in a single sex setting.

friendjoy | Student

i dont think dat single sex class room have an advantage because it happened to me i m totally aware about single sex classroom or let suppose in a classroom of girls if tends to be very shy among other does not help nd also hv a bad impact on the further life of students..

it is not the matter of attractiveness among opposite sex but it also helps to mix in each other very openly....



lovepeacea | Student

Getting along is a really good chemistry girls have with eachother, with boys, girls think that they have cooties ( some K-2 ) Boys as well think girls have cooties, therefore a single gender classroom of girls separated from boys and boys seperated from girls is the best choice. They might not be all friends but at least they will make new friends with combining there favorite activities. If I were a teacher, in a single gender classroom, I would pair the girls up with eachother and they will get to know one another, and if they don't want to be friends, they make that decision. Some things I would do is I would print some questions I would write myself on a program that said "What is your favorite food?", let's say one chose Pizza and the other one chose the same thing, they would get on the topic about Pizza and talk about there favorite toppings. Another question I would jot down is "What is your favorite topic?", One chose Reading and the other chose Math, One girl will talk about Math and the other girl will talk about Reading, It is all about chemistry between one another so girls will get along and boys will as well. Also, they will think it would be cool if they were in a "Only Boy's class or a Only Girls class, The girls and probably boys will have sleepovers and talk about topics at school and who they have a crush on. I remember being a little girl, Brings back SO many memories:D


krcavnar | Student

Having had both single-sex classes and mixed classes I must agree with most of the above posts. Girls tend to be more open and less intimidated in discussion, however, the boys tend to all play it "cool" and actually put forth less effort than the mixed classes. I have found single-sex classes to be easier to discipline but less enthusiastic toward meaningful discussions and activities.