Gender Differences in Learning

I remember my post from a couple of years ago where I placed a disclaimer at the beginning asking for people to NOT email me with ‘the exception that disproves the rule’. The post was published in Dec 2019 (Teenager Emotions – Some Intriguing Research) and talked about how teenagers processed their emotions differently than younger children and most adults. Yes, we could always find an exception to the general findings — people are complex like that — but, that does not mean that a general relationship or trend isn’t evident.

I feel like I should probably start out this blog post with the same request.

I’m going to be talking about some research suggesting there are differences between how boys and girls learn. So, to qualify things before I receive comments or concerns, I am not saying that EVERY child will fall into this binary description. Children are diverse like the rest of our population and do not automatically fit into stereotyped boxes of ‘boys’ or ‘girls’. Even suggesting that there is this binary world of only two genders does not fully acknowledge the spectrum of gender identity in our world.

The messages I want to share with you today are meant to provoke thought about how CHILDREN learn differently. Feel free to even take the terms ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ away and think about them as ‘differences amongst children’.

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Can We Go Outside Today?

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday.

It would be a typical day in late spring. I was in my classroom teaching science. The weather was warm, sunny and inviting. A hand would rise and the polite voice would ask, “Can we go outside for class today? Please, Mr. Eberwein.” Most sunny days the question repeated itself. What the students probably didn’t realize is that I wanted to be outside as well. However, my lessons just didn’t fit well with being outdoors so the answer was often a NO.

Prospect Lake Elementary School – Natural Playground

But, IS there some evidence that supports the idea that learning outside is beneficial — that being immersed in our natural surroundings is actually helpful while learning curriculum?

We have all heard anecdotal support for learning outside — that being in nature is calming and centering — things like going on nature hikes, being in outdoor classrooms, or taking field trips to the beach or old growth forests all are great experiences. But, I haven’t seen the empirical evidence to support that notion.

Now, three researchers have reviewed hundreds of other studies to find an answer to the question of whether being in nature makes a difference to learning.

The unequivocal answer is YES.

The review, published in February 2019 (Do Experiences With Nature Promote Learning? Converging Evidence of a Cause-and-Effect Relationship), shows that learning in nature can have profound effects on overall student achievement.

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The Adaptable Mind – Finding Success in a World Full of Change

I started this blog post way back in 2018 but didn’t finish it as I couldn’t seem to get ‘lift off’. I had written about 100 words and then stalled. I kept going back to it — I’d add a little and then delete it. I wasn’t going anywhere with it. I almost deleted the entire thing but decided to keep it in my ‘drafts’ and ignore it for awhile. There it sat for almost 2 1/2 years.

And then I opened it back up in early 2021.

A blog by George Couros had originally piqued my curiosity on the topic of The Adaptable Mind. I watched the video again and this time something clicked — funny how that works — a new context, a new time and you can sometimes find success when it eluded you in the past. An important life lesson in itself for all of us.

The 2021 context of living in a pandemic may have actually helped me personalize the ideas to make the topic my own.

As we work creatively to find new ways of making education in a pandemic more meaningful and relevant, the idea of focusing on flexible thinking makes perfect sense.

ADAPTABILITY will only make our students more successful during this wild time of uncertainty and change.

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