Most Universities offer classes for aspiring teachers in the theories behind education, classroom management, lesson plan writing and the history of education. All of these classes and subjects are relevant in their own rights but one class that isn’t often offered is the differences between boy and girl brain development and what that means to education. Even when a fetus is formed, there are biological differences happening from day one that will create either a boy or a girl and will determine numerous differences between them. This research is important and extremely relevant to understanding why boys are the way that they are and learn in the way that they do. Girls have traits that are tremendously different than boys and with the knowledge of this research, a teacher can tailor his/her instruction to fit all of the learning needs of their students. Neurological Differences Between Boys and Girls
According to Gurian, Stevens, and King (2008b), the differences begin at conception when a Y chromosome is present or not present, determining the sex of the fetus. When a Y chromosome is received, a male system begins with a secretion of testosterone resulting in a higher capacity for muscle mass as well as different calcium and iron ratios. Female offspring will also receive testosterone but in a smaller amount due to the estrogen-type hormones being released in her blood stream. These chemical differences affect the brain development and although they aren’t the only factors influencing how the brain will expand, they are the building blocks for future brain growth (Wasserman, 2007). When researching the differences between boys’ and girls’ brains, it is important to note that neither brain is “better” but just unique in their strengths and weaknesses. Each has the potential to learn, grow, be productive and succeed but the method used in teaching in which we expect these brains to respond should correspond with the research presented.
Research using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) was done by scientists to determine brain functionality when boys and girls are requested to perform the same task (Costello, 2008). The differences in brain development are biological and can be medically proven but the ways that boys and girls respond to these differences are generalizations and not absolute. The following research conducted by Gurian, Stevens and King (2008a) is a prime example of differences between the brain of most females and most males: •
Corpus Callosum - The corpus callosum is the bridge that connects the nerves between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. A female’s corpus callosum tends to be larger and more dense than a male’s, resulting in a more acute ability to multitask. Girls can also verbalize their feelings more quickly than boys who often need time to process their emotions into words. •
Brain Stem – The brain stem sends messages back and forth and the male brain has more fluid so these messages can move more quickly than a female’s. It also controls the “fight or flight” response so boys tend to respond more quickly when they feel threatened or emotionally charged. This can be in a classroom or on the playground but either way, their reaction time to a situation is usually more impulsive. •
Limbic System – This system controls sensorial and emotional memory which is more acute in females, resulting in increased emotional memory for females as well as the ability to read emotional cues better than most males. The key emotion center in the Limbic System is the Cingulated Gyrus. This area is larger and more active in women and also has more connections and conduction in and through the brain. These connections are the reason that women have a natural tendency to make friends and nurture others while males don’t have the same drive to make connections with. •...
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