By Maralyn Parker, (News.com.au, July 11, 2007)
TRYING to recruit more males into teaching may be worse than a waste of time. According to a new report some male teachers can be bad for boys.
The 140-page report from the education department in England, Gender and Education: The Evidence on Pupils in England, claims male teachers are more likely to treat boys harshly and can have lower academic expectations of boys. Female teachers are more likely to have equal expectations of boys and girls and are less likely to be harsh with boys just because they are boys.
Researchers also found there was little evidence boys and girls had different learning styles - a small bombshell that may prick the pomposity of some high-fee private schools marketing themselves as specialists in boy-style teaching. Researchers also soundly rejected the claim that girls need "less active, less structured, less interactive, less varied pedagogy" than boys. If you are already composing an email - yes there are different styles of learning such as visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (touching, feeling, using).
The report said there are benefits in talking about and using different styles in the classroom. And some students may prefer one style or different combinations. However to be successful learners children need to be able to use all the different styles at different times for different purposes. So any school favouring one style of learning is doing its students a serious disservice. It reminds me of the left brain-right brain fad. We were told we probably favour one or the other - and the associated but very different skills.
Then scientists found the brain did not work so simply, that we used both sides when doing things previously considered either right brain or left brain. It looks like the boy and girls styles of learning are now also debunked. As for single-sex schools and single-sex classes, research remains "inconsistent and inconclusive." Separating sexes for modern languages can be positive for boys and for science and maths, can be positive for girls. But researchers pointed out when a school sets up single-sex classes there is an increased emphasis on teaching which may improve the quality of that teaching.
Also schools will often select their best teachers to take these classes, especially the all-boy classes, which will also affect outcomes. But probably the most significant finding is that the biggest gaps in achievement at school are not between boys and girls but between social classes and ethnic groups. Poor children and black children are the biggest losers. And researchers say that is what the English Government should really be worried about if it wants a clever future.
All I can say is ditto to all of that for Australia.