After having completed some observation involving adolescents both in classrooms and public non-educational settings, some matters regarding identity became clear. In addition, polling the adolescents led to findings that reinforce the issues identified. Most prevalently, the differences between girls and boys in all settings were observably significant. In the explanation that follows, these traits and contrasts will be illustrated using the time and responses found in the classroom, the public, and polling as methods for measurement and reflection.
In an average English-Language Arts classroom at Leland High School, there are thirty-five students, of which girls and boys seem to be equally distributed. What is not so balanced among the sexes, is the amount of attention, interaction, and engagement being invested into the lesson and activities. Simply put, girls were more participatory in the classes than boys. When we take into account the instructional strategies being used in the classes, the explanation for such discrepancy in participation should become clearer. In the English classes observed, the same sort of instruction and student activities were being employed. First, students were initiated to complete some sort of writing prompt based on prior reading, then paired conversations about the writing and reading activity, and finally active listening to some reading for that day. This same approach was used across more than one class and used with students of varying ages and grade level. Why this particular strategy was being used is irrelevant, however the level of contribution being displayed by girls and boys is of note. In a very visible way, boys were partaking less than girls. This was evident in boys lying their heads on the desks (some of which were actually asleep), listening to music with an earphone in one ear, surfing the internet on their phone, and overall failure to display any verbal interaction with the rest of the class or in the activity. Of course, this was not true of all boys, but occurred substantially more in boys than girls. Michelle Galley provides some insight into why such a dichotomy might occur in these sort of situations when she reports, “…boys tend to rely on nonverbal communication which Gurian says has enormous ramifications for them in an educational setting that relies so heavily on conversation and words” (Galley, 2003). Based on Galley’s analysis, the lesson being deployed in these English classes was non-engaging for the boys in the classroom, and it shows. Additionally, Galley points out some facts about girls that seemed to ring true in this setting as well, “Girls … are, on average, able to read earlier and speak with better grammar. … girls are also able to hear, smell, and feel tactile sensations better; have better overall verbal abilities…” (Galley, 2003). These attributes, too, were evident in the girls’ participation in the reading, writing, and discussion portions of the class. When the teacher asked a question to the class or verbally read a part of the text, the girls would quickly articulate an answer or response. Consequently, Galley’s examinations seem to explain both the lack of verbal communication by boys when surrounded by girls in non-academic settings, as well as, the polling results of a majority of boys disliking English-Language Arts the most out of all the other subjects. To turn the tables, the subject which is liked least by girls is the Social Sciences. Although, I did not observe any Social Science classrooms or non-academic settings that involved spatial reasoning, the results of my survey indicate that of the choices between the main subject areas in academics, the average adolescent girl will dislike Social Science the most. This finding is emblematic of what many researchers have identified with regard to female cognitive development for spatial reasoning, Galley...
Cited: Galley, M. (2003). Who am I as a learner? In M. Sadowski, Adolescents at School: Perspectives on Youth, Identity, and Education (pp. 85-93). Cambridge: Harvard Educational Publishing.
Tatum, B. D. (2003). Why Are All he Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria: and Other Conversations About Race. Basic Books.
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