Do you thing single-gender classes are helpful for struggling students?Do you thing single-gender classes are helpful for struggling students?

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lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There actually has been a good deal of research into this topic. You no doubt have already done some research to check this out, but if not, I highly recommend you do an online search.

The data does seem to support the idea that single-gender classes are helpful for not only struggling students, but for students in general. What the research has found is that when students are grouped according to gender, they are more comfortable answering questions and asking questions. There is less fear about the opposite sex perceving them as stupid, or, in the case of girls, of boys perceiving them as too aggressive and non-feminine.

I have done some teaching in all-girl and all-boy environments and this does seem to be true to some extent for the less self-assured teens. In an all-boy environment, the boys are not as aggressive about being the first ones to raise their hands or about simply shouting out the answers in class without being called on when they are in classes with all boys. In all-girl classes, there is not such a marked difference in my experience. I think that shy girls are just as intimated by the "popular" and "aggressive" girls as they are by boys. My colleagues in the all-boy school also have told me that the boys act differently when the teacher is a woman (I am a woman), so this plays into the mix as well.

One thing I did notice is that in an all-boy environment, the boys are not as fussy about their appearance as they are when they are in classes with girls. The opposite is not true, however. The girls are just as fussy with how they look regardless. I once asked one of my 11th grade students (whom I had had in a previous co-ed class the year before) why he did not shave anymore in the morning and always appeared "rumpled" and he replied, "Jeez, Mrs. H -- why should I shave? There aren't any girls here!"

Just some anecdotal information. Hopefully others will chime in and perhaps you should move your quesiton to a discussion board.


scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I read a lot of the research regarding single gender classrooms, and I certainly can see what their benefits can be.  However, whether single gender classrooms effectively help struggling students or any type of student truly relies on the support and implementation of a single-gender program.  Last school year, my high school introduced single-gender English and math classes in our ninth grade academy.  One of the ninth-grade teachers was out for several days, and I had the "pleasure" of filling in for one of her single-gender classes.  I say without exaggeration that it is the worst classroom situation I have ever been in--and I've taught some rough classes.  This teacher's class was all male accelerated reading and was the last period of the day.  Throughout the school year, administrators and teachers had tried to corrale the class, but nothing seemed to work.  It was not only an ineffective learning environment; it was also a dangerous physical environment.

That being said, there were numerous poor choices that went into forming that single-gender struggling reader class.  First, it was scheduled for the last period of the day when the schedule would have allowed for these students to take one of their electives during the last period. Secondly, two of the students were 17-years-old, mixed in with 14-year-old boys, and others had already repeated the class.  Finally, all of the students knew that the class did not count as their English credit; so they had no extra motivation to pass.

I believe that the idea behind the single-gender class is wonderful, but you have to have a team of knowledgeable, diligent counselors, administrators, and teachers to effectively design and maintain a single-gender classroom.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As with all propositions for struggling students, there are many approaches that are offered.  Certainly, single gendered classrooms is one solution that has been posited.  I would think that there are other approaches that might be more targeted to addressing the needs of struggling students such as intensive exposure to deficient concepts, allocating minutes in the school day to ensure there is a maximum of instruction time, as well as examining the concept of block scheduling and team teaching to ensure differentiated instruction needs are met.  Yet, I think that single gendered classrooms hold value as a potential starting point to helping struggling students.  Yet, I think that it places a bit too much primacy on coeducational facilities being a primary cause of academic deficiencies.  I would probably suggest that targeting instruction to help or assist with said challenges in the learning environment might be more appropriate to enact with struggling students.  This is not to devalue the suggestion, but rather examine it in a context of other solutions, which ends up being the critical element in assessing how to best help all students and struggling students, in particular.

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We did a trial of this in our school a few years ago - for repeat freshman who needed to pass the end of course test.  The classes were kept small and taught by two of the most seasoned English teachers.

The all-female class was, by all accounts, fabulous.  Successful, fun, better than a co-ed class, the scores went up, but more than that, I think the girls actually really enjoyed it.

The all-male class, as that teacher put it, was punishment.  I think in a co-ed school, females help balance the immaturity of typical teenage boys.

Single sex SCHOOLS are a little different.  My husband and I taught at a military academy that had a very low percentage of girls period, so most classes were all boys.  He had surprising success - as a male teacher - with all boy classes.  But I think part of this was due to the fact that they were out of a traditional co-ed environment.

I think females tend to thrive in single sex classes.  It eliminates (often) the insecurities that come from the desire for attention (or lack of it, as the case may be) and allows all girls to feel more comfortable participating more fully.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would surely think the size of a class matters way more than gender, especially for struggling students.  While I agree with the other posters regarding female maturity and male immaturity, my experience tells me it depends a lot on the teacher, as well.  I have three younger brothers, no sisters, and I grew up adapting to the immaturities and shenanigans--and hormones--of boys.  I've found that I do connect better, at some level, anyway, with the boys.  Others are the same with girls.  That doesn't, of course, mean that such life experiences shape every classroom environment; it's just that a class full of boys takes some extra tolerance--much like my heroes, middle school teachers.  All of this to say that class size and teacher temperament probably have as much if not more impact than gender alone.  Nothing official or scientific, but anecdotal evidence are helpful, as well.

ajmchugh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I used to teach general-level Freshmen, and I remember being floored by how ridiculous some of the behavior was!  I remember one class in particular; I had three girls and about 14 boys, and it was almost as if the boys were on a competitive mission to entertain/get attention from/impress the girls. (They were wonderful kids, and I loved teaching them; but the difference in maturity level between the boys and the girls was just glaring.) I remember thinking how different the class would have been if the boys and girls had been separated--especially at this grade level. 

Since that class, I've taught every grade at the high school level.  Though I don't think I'd send my children to single-gender schools, I do think that a lot of problems with low achievement might be prevented by doing so.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Recent studies have shown that girls have improved greatly in science classes in which there are no males.  When interviewed, they said that they were not intimidated to ask questions and were less reluctant about being engaged in the class once they realized that no one would make them feel inferior, or make fun of them when they did something wrong or asked a question.

So, it seems that if the struggling students are having problems because of their emtional state in the class, the single gender class alleviates stress and is a less threatening environment for them.

engtchr5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have previously taught single-gender classes. I did not see a great deal of difference in performance from those students who were mixed in a co-ed environment, and in fact, last year during one class of all boys, the guys lamented the fact that there were no females to "make us act right." I thought it was pretty intriguing that the guys, all athletes, felt like female presences were a deterrent to misconduct. Sounds like a study that someone should do (or maybe has already done?).

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Couldn't hurt, but I don't know that it would specifically help a struggling student.  Depends what they are struggling with - if it's keeping their attention, then perhaps, especially if we're talking teenagers.  If they are being harassed by the opposite gender, it could certainly help.

I've never taught in a gender segregated classroom, but I'd like to try it sometime just to see the difference in learning that might take place.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I think it depends strictly on the individual, although I do agree that class size is more of an issue here. If a teacher has many students in a particular class and it includes students who are struggling, it makes it very difficult to help those students individually. Students who are struggling need extra help and I do not necessarily think that a class of a single gender will change this.
lhfscarlet | Student

As a student through my freshman year, I was in a single gender school. I feel that when I made the switch to being in a mixed gender classroom, the concentration level went down significantly. It could also be the fact of changing from a prep school to a public school the level of concentration would have changed despite the distraction of a mixed gender enviroment.

ryzamartinez | Student

It can be, especially with gender bias issues at hand.

Several researchers have proven that gender bias is reflected inside the classroom where language learning takes place. Ehrlich (1999, as cited in Litosseliti, 2008,) conducted a study on the relationship of language learning—early second language acquisition / learning in particular—to the classroom environment and the gender differences of the members and the class. The results have shown that the settings in which language learning takes place are often gendered. For instance, women in such settings are seen as the gatekeepers of maintaining traditional and/or standard language forms, while men were encouraged and given the advantage to explore more naturalistic forms. Moreover, Ehrlich found out that there is a gendered nature of interaction in the L2 classrooms due to the teachers’ unequal treatment of girls and boys, as well as the girls’ and boys’ different interactional strategies in class.

Norton and Parlenko (2004), on the other hand, conducted a study that showed how L2 acquisition can be seen as a social phenomenon to do with gender identity, as they have identified gender as one of the most important aspects of social identity. This interacts with other factors such as race, sexuality, age and class—all of which influence the learning experience. Results of their study have shown that men were at an advantage as compared to women, because men dominated through recitations.

lrhodes8 | Student
Do you thing single-gender classes are helpful for struggling students?

Do you thing single-gender classes are helpful for struggling students?

From my experience teaching in a single-gender setting, I believe that other factors, besides creating gender specific classrooms, are important to help struggling students suceed.  In my situation, I taught 7th grade goys, 7th grade girls, 8th grade boys, and 8th grade girls.  (I have also taught the same curriculum material in mixed gender classes.)  Class size was a major factor for me.  In the classes that were smaller I was able to provide more individualized help for struggling students.  It really didn't matter that they were in a single-gender class or not.  In my large single-gender classrooms I struggled to maintain discipline, just like I did with mixed gender.  There were "cliques" in both settings which had an effect on struggling students.  I really believe that class size affects struggling students much more than whether they are in a single or mixed class.

jerkman | Student

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blahg209 | Student


pghinaudo1 | Student

There may not be a lot to add to this except a little from my perspective as I have both read the research and taught in all types of schools (single gender boys/girls, and co-ed).  I must agree that the girls are much less inhibited in their classes in the single gender schools/classes than they are with the boys around.  There is also much less sexual tension and disruption from such things so all students are able to perform better.  In an all boys school, there seem to be fewer fights than when the girls are there for the boys to have to perform in front of them (at least that was my observation back in the 90's).  I have also noticed that lately the girls get into physical altercations much more than they did when I was in the all girls school.  I don't know if that is a sign of the times, the urban school I am in now, or a combination.  All I know is that girl fights now are not pretty especially when a boy is involved.  I hope this shows I am a fan of single gender schools but am not sure that, in this social climate, they will work as well as they once did.

msturlic | Student

I teach English.  From a developmental perspective as far as language acquisition and expression, the data seems to support that certain subjects (English, reading, math, and science) would be better taught if classes were single gendered.  Classes could be more tailored to specific audiences and students would be more comfortable in discussion, answering questions, etc.

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