Underachievement in the School System

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TOPIC: MALE UNDERACHIEVEMENT IN SCHOOLS:
THE ROLE OF THE TEACHER.
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When we look at school drop outs, reading problems, gender inequality, self esteem, and teaching/learning strategies; it is clear that there is not just one factor that results in boys’ underachievement in the school system. This paper seeks to address reasons why boys are underachieving in the school system in Trinidad and Tobago and how boys’ methods of learning differ from girls and what teachers can do to close the gender gap.

A previous study in Trinidad and Tobago found that classroom achievement in primary and secondary schools and in all core curriculum subjects was higher for females than males. Research was done by (Kutnick and Jules, 1988; Jules and Kutnick, 1990), based on the International Journal of Education Development 20 (2000) 65-84. During the Primary school years both boys and girls performed well up to the Common Entrance Exam. From Secondary level there has been a decline in the performance of boys. There are a number of reasons that resulted in boys’ underachievement in the Secondary School.

Teaching/Learning strategies are number one on the list. The research done in Trinidad and Tobago classrooms states that, teachers use a more Traditional and Didactic approach when teaching, (The International Journal, 2000. pg 76.) Students are to sit still and take in the information and then give responses when asked. Brain Based Research is used to aid teachers to better understand how boys and girls learn. Michael Gurian wrote a book which deals with how the brain works. It is entitled: Boys and Girls Learn Differently. He stated that throughout hundreds of years of history, theories have been generated to explain the elusive qualities of the human brain. Plato likened the brain to a ball of wax that becomes grooved as we learn and recall information over the same pathways. Aristotle thought that the heart was the source of memory and the brain served to cool the blood. In the mid 1660s, Descartes proposed that fluids in the ventricles of the brain controlled motor activity but human mental capabilities existed outside the brain in the mind. Researchers who study the Brain such as: Paula Tallal, Sally Shaywitz, Bennett Shaywitz and Kenneth, Leslie Hart, and Pat Wolfe, stated that Boys are more kinesthetic in nature. They love to explore, inquire, experiment and analyze their work. They are always on the move and use hands on approach to learning.

Girls have better verbal abilities and rely heavily on verbal communication. Boys tend to rely heavily on non-verbal communication, being innately less able to verbalize feelings and responses as quickly as girls. This is a disadvantage in the classroom where teachers look for verbal responses than watching for silent cues, which makes communication difficult for males. Males are dominant in spatial tasks and abstracting reasoning. (Michael Gurian, 2001, ‘Boys and Girls learn Differently, Pg 27.)

Most of the times, boys are put at the back of the classroom. Research shows that girls hear things better than boys. (Michel Gurian,2001 ‘Boys Learn Differently from Girls’. Pg 30). Therefore boys should be put at the front of the classroom. Girls hear more of what is said and are more receptive to details in a lesson or conversation. Boys tend to hear less and ask for clear evidence to support a teacher’s claim. From the research that was done in Trinidad and Tobago; teachers applaud the girls with the correct definitions. The boys however state that the girls learnt it straight from their books while their answers come from what was taught in class. (The International Journal. 2000 Pg. 79). Males see better in bright light. They should be situated close to visual learning aids. (Michael Gurian, 2001,’Boys and Girls learn Differently, Pg 30).

Research shows that teachers chose girls to participate with greater frequency than boys....
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