There are known differences in cerebral laterality between males and females. Though our brains are unique, some may believe it is politically incorrect to say there are gender differences and others may stick to the old understanding that males and females are different. For some educators and policy makers it is easy; we should have same-sex schools. For others, it raises questions about who should teach, class size, and instructional strategies. Can you relate these differences to the brain's executive process in problem solving and critical thinking? Would these differences dictate a need to change our educational policies and teaching strategies? Why or Why not?
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According to a report from Brookhaven National Laboratory,
...gender differences in the lateralization of brain function are still controversial, and few studies have been done to address it.
Therefore, to dictate a change in educational policies based upon limited studies would, perhaps, be unwise. In the recent past, there have been experiments made with science and math classes with gender segregation; in many of these classes, girls improved in their skills and scores in these subjects, with some attributing their success to feeling less inhibited. That the inhibitors in girls' acquisition of skills in science and math have not been cerebral, but more emotional and social seems substantiated by a recent study that reveals that girls now are getting better grades in math and science than boys. A report from Voice of America reveals,
A new study of academic performance in more than 30 countries and spanning nearly a century shows girls do better than boys in math and science as well as other subjects.
One of the possible causes for this increased performance may be attributable to encouragement from parents who are less likely to accept stereotypical views of male and female aptitudes nowadays as opposed to years ago. There can also be a connection to the executive process of the brain since executive function is essential to the development of strong cognitive skills, and social and emotional skills. Again, parents have probably fostered more confidence in girls as they study math and science than was done in the past; therefore, the girls are more emotionally confident in the classroom setting and can learn without feeling inadequate to males or threatened by them.
Without more scientific data, major changes in educational policies and teaching strategies would be inadvisable. In the past, there have been many parochial schools that have had gender segregation, so the experiments have already been conducted, and flaws in the systems found, especially in the socialization process. Interestingly, many of these colleges that once were all one gender, now have become co-ed. From this educator's point of view, having attended an all-girls college for two years and then transferred, there is definitely something missing in classrooms in which one gender is only represented. Discussions, for instance, are more one-sided; perspectives are not challenged as in the co-ed classroom in which a student must, then, defend her (or his) position. Perhaps,then, the fact that in a study of brain function activity
...males had greater rightward laterality of brain connectivity in superior temporal, inferior frontal, and inferior occipital cortices (short-range) and in the superior temporal cortex (long-range) than females,whereas females showed greater leftward lateralization of long-range connectivity in inferior frontal cortex
suggests the complementary nature of male/female and the need to include both genders together in the learning process, just as they are present in life. After all, sometimes one gender helps the other to examine ideas and things in different lights, examinations that sometimes lead to deeper learning. And, strategies and methodologies can always be varied so that different learning styles can be addressed.
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