Do students learn better in single

Do students learn better in single-sex classrooms?
Single-sex classrooms
can make it easier for
teachers to match their
instructional style to the
characteristics of the
students. Girls seem to
favor learning in a
quieter setting in which
they work together and
come to a consensus.
Boys tend to favor a setting that is more competitive,
physically active, and louder.
Perhaps the opposite
gender could be a
distraction for
students in the
classroom, but by
grouping students by
gender, we lose
important elements
of true education. In
a diverse classroom,
there are countless
questions, different perspectives, and a variety of
interests, which all add to the excitement of
Early research shows that girls reap the most benefits
from being together for math and science. They feel
more comfortable about their abilities without
worrying about how they appear to boys, and they
have more opportunity to participate in class
discussions. Boys, who are typically more confident
in math and science, dominate discussions, and
teachers tend to call on boys more often.
Recent research shows that boys also benefit from
single-sex classes. It is likely that teachers of a class
of boys will adopt a teaching approach that
encourages boys’ tendencies during discussions to be
direct and confrontational, loud and excited at times,
and to interrupt each other as well as the teacher. Of
course, not all girls and boys are going to be
comfortable in single-sex classrooms, so it would
have to be voluntary enrollment. But offering singlesex classrooms in public schools is the cheapest,
most effective, and simplest “innovation” available
to improve achievement, particularly in math and
Robert Kirschenbaum is a school psychologist
with the Clover Park School District in Lakewood,
Our students have much to contribute to each other,
and students of all ages benefit from being engaged
in activities and learning in the company of the
opposite sex. In the classroom, learning experiences
need to resemble real-world life experiences. How
can we prepare students for future families, homes,
and workplaces without exposing them to members
of the opposite sex? How can we expect them to
learn to respect and appreciate gender differences as
adults if we do not teach them to form healthy
relationships and have positive interactions and
appropriate dialogues now?
I also believe that female classmates encourage
many unmotivated male students.
In my middle school classroom, I see my female
students try to motivate my male students who seem
to be less interested.
As educators, our efforts should not be driven by
how we can separate students to minimize
distractions but by how we can bring all students
together to maximize learning. In my experience,
students tend to learn better when teachers learn to
teach better—regardless of the gender of the
André Boyd teaches at Johnson Middle School in
Timmonsville, South Carolina.
From National Education Association archives, May 2007