The idea of single gender classrooms is an interesting one that seems to have people on one side of the fence or the other. Not many are actually sitting on the fence when it comes to the way they feel about them. Except me. I’m alone up here on this big ol fence it seems.
I think single gender classrooms have a wide variety of positive and negative points. But I also think those positives and negative vary GREATLY depending upon which grade level we are talking about. Since I taught Middle School, I’ll focus on that.
Everyone knows Middle School is pretty much the most awkward time in life for both boys and girls. Their bodies are doing weird things, their emotions are doing weird things and their lives pretty much revolve around their friends. For the most part, they are too old to think it’s cool to hang with their parents, and too young to really care much about school and extra curriculars. Middle School is probably the first time a kid develops a legit crush on someone else, causing a whole different set of emotions/confusion in their already emotional and confused brains.
I definitely think there are some major benefits to single gender learning environments in Middle School because I think the desire to appeal to the opposite sex is cause for a large portion of behavior problems and distraction in the classroom. Boys try to impress girls with their their attitude towards the teacher or their ridiculous jokes. Girls try to impress boys with their looks and intelligence. Boys don’t usually raise their hand to participate as much because it’s totally NOT cool to be smart. If boys and girls were separate in core classes like ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies, I honestly think there would be a benefit for both the students and the teacher.
The benefits to the students would obviously be less distraction and less pressure to impress. Come to class, be who you are and don’t worry about whether or not the boy/girl behind you is winking at you when the teacher turns their back. The benefits to the teacher would be the potential for easier classroom management and similar learning styles.
Of course since I said I’m on that fence, I think there are negatives to single gender classrooms. Notice above, I said that single gender learning environments would be good for core classes. I do not think it’s necessary to separate students for classes such as music, art, physical education, etc. Not because those classes aren’t important, but because those classes are based on the idea of expressing yourself and and learning to work together. If a girl is overly emotional because a certain boy was “mean” to her in class that day, she may come up with something daggone creative in art class.
Another negative is that students can’t be sheltered forever. Just because they’re separated for a few hours a day, they won’t be separated forever. Boys and girls need to learn to work together and need to go through that awkward stage in order to figure out who they really are. The need to let them work together is the reason I don’t think single gender classrooms are necessary or would be very successful in elementary or high schools.
Here are some articles about this topic if you are interested. Some are a bit dated but it’s interesting to see how ideas have changed or not changed.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Have you taught in a single gender classroom or been a student in one? Do you think it would change the way you teach or otherwise have any real impact on the learning environment? I’d love to hear your input in the comments!