This MLA comparative essay discusses the advantages and disadvantages of separate gender classes. It highlights teaching methods, lesson plans, academic performance, and gender stereotypes. This sample essay was written at the undergraduate level to serve as a sample for the Ultius blog.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Separate-Gender Classes
Research shows that girls and boys learn differently. These findings have inspired many schools to separate classes by gender; between 1995 and 2006, the number of single-sex public schools in the United States rose from three to two hundred and forty one (“Pros and Cons of Single-Sex Education”). However, there are people who do not agree with separate-gender classes. The topic attracts political and socioeconomic attention as many debate the advantages and disadvantages of teaching boys and girls separately.
The first public middle school to switch to single-gender classes was Jefferson Leadership Academies in California and they did so because of research showing that girls performed better in math and science when educated in separate-gender classes (“Pros and Cons of Single-Sex Education”). The popularity of single-sex education did not really pick up in the United States until the late 1990s, though it began in the eighteenth century. In 1996 in United States v. Virginia, it was ruled that it was okay to educate the genders separately only if there were comparable resources available to both male and female students (“Pros and Cons of Single-Sex Education”). Still, not everyone is totally on-board with segregating the genders in the name of education. Which begs the questions: is it gender discrimination? And, how beneficial is it really to a child’s education?
Advantage: gender-specific teaching methods
There are many advantages to separating classes by gender. A commonly cited advantage is that single-gender classes enable teachers to use gender-specific teaching methods in order to optimize the learning environment of their students. Studies show that boys and girls differ in their preferences in regard to their learning behavior; boys tend to steer towards physical activities while girls tend to prefer peer interaction (“10 Biggest Pros And Cons Of Single Gender Classrooms”).
For example, teachers would be able to focus on topics that have proven to be problematic for their gender, like theoretical instruction to enhance girls’ understanding of mathematics and sciences or use interactive instruction to improve the way boys learn language arts (OCadiz). Students are also given the opportunity to branch out of their interest areas without impression from the opposite gender, which will lead to higher personal development. With these things in mind, teachers are able to tailor their lesson plans according to the gender of their students.
Advantage: tailored lesson plans
Another advantage is that tailoring lesson plans to fit students’ gender is that it can help increase self-esteem and confidence. Girls in particular benefit from a curriculum that is mostly female-based (“Advantages for Girls”). Their textbooks and other material do not have any male bias, they are exposed to more female role models, there is no male favoritism, and girls are free of expectations that girls are sweet, quiet, and passive. They are given more opportunities to learn the way they need to and actively participate. One college professor noted that girls from single-gender schools were usually easily identified. “They were the young women whose hands shot up in the air, who were not afraid to defend their position, and who assumed I would be interested in their perspective.” (“The Many Advantages of Single-Sex Schools”).
In addition, they have more access to positions of leadership and become more likely to major in math and science. Female alumnae of single-sex schools are three times as likely to aspire to be engineers and ten percent more likely to feel confident in their strength as students than girls from mixed-gender schools (“The Many Advantages of Single-Sex Schools”). This enables them to grow more confident in themselves and has shown higher levels of achievement. It seems, too, that the confidence that single-sex classes help instill in female students are likely to maintain their confidence and self-esteem in the future.
After over a decade of studying sexism in the classroom, professors David and Myra Sadker found that girls from single-gender schools were more likely to stay confident after they graduate (“The Many Advantages Of Single-Sex Schools”). Twenty five percent of the female Congress members and over thirty percent of female Fortune 100 members graduated from colleges and universities where the students were female-only (“The Many Advantages Of Single-Sex Schools”). Single-sex educational settings can increase a student’s confidence and self-esteem as well as their academic achievement, both of which can positively contribute to their success in the future.
Advantage: reduced distractions from the opposite sex
Another advantage to single-sex classes is that they help to reduce distractions students may experience from the opposite sex, which can increase their focus on their schoolwork and their instructors. Students often experience pressure from the opposite sex which can sometimes lead to discipline problems as a result of their interaction. Teachers have reported that girls often find boys to be unruly and disruptive, making it hard for them to focus on class material while boys are hesitant and uncomfortable reading journal entries out loud in the presence of girls (OCadiz).
Boys are also able to freely pursue subjects that are generally considered to be feminine because they are not as aware that subjects like music and language arts come with the a gender stereotype attached. Students are often better able to concentrate in single-sex classes because they are not faced with the distraction of the opposite sex’s presence.
Advantage: improved academic performance
Another argument often used by supporters of single-sex classrooms is that, in some cases, it can improve academic performance. A study done in Australian of almost three hundred thousand students concluded that students of both genders achieved markedly higher scores on standardized tests than students in mixed-gender classes (“The Many Advantages of Single-Sex Schools”).
Other studies have shown similar results. A 2001 study in Britain found that almost every female students performed better in single-sex classrooms regardless of academic ability or socioeconomic status (“The Many Advantages Of Single-Sex Schools”). The data was gathered from almost three thousand high schools and nearly one thousand primary schools and showed that the lowest-performing male students benefited the most from single-gender classes while girls of all academic levels showed significant improvements in achievement. In fact, the fifty highest performing elementary schools and top twenty high schools in Britain are single-gender schools (“The Many Advantages Of Single-Sex Schools”).
In the United States, there have also been cases in which separating classes by gender has resulted in higher student achievement. A 1995 experiment on one hundred eight graders from Virginia concluded that both male and female students saw higher achievement academically, became more confident in their academic abilities, and were more eager to participate (“The Many Advantages Of Single-Sex Schools”).
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Disadvantaged: hindered communication skills
Despite the number of advantages there are to single-sex classrooms, there are also several disadvantages to separating classes by gender. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, separating classes by gender does not encourage the social skills necessary for interaction with the opposite sex (OCadiz). Society is not separated according one’s gender and the vast majority of people have to interact with members of both sexes in their everyday lives. These students will go on to college and get jobs and have to know how to cooperate with each other.
It is important for children to learn how to effectively communicate and cooperate with member of the opposite sex because they will inevitably have to do so in order to lead successful lives as adults. Some studies indicate that children report enjoying learning together because of the balance it can bring to their learning environments (OCadiz). With regular interaction with the opposite sex, children are able to develop adaptability, confidence in their ability to communicate, and the opportunity to develop meaningful friendships.
Disadvantage: reinforce gender stereotypes
Another disadvantage to single-gender classes is that they increase the reinforcement of gender stereotypes. The American Psychology Association believes that the presence and strength of gender stereotypes increases when boys and girls are unable to spend more time together (OCadiz). Separating the classes by gender paints the picture that the genders differ in their academic needs, abilities, and careers. It also has the ability to increase tension between male and female children because they are less familiar with each other and unlikely to seek each other out as playmates.
Disadvantage: lack of evidence supporting separation
A third disadvantage to separating classes by gender is that there is not enough evidence to support that kind of segregation. In fact, Jefferson Leadership Academies, the first public school in the United States to institute single-sex classroom, reversed their same-sex curriculum after some troubling test scores (“Pros and Cons of Single-Gender Classrooms”). The New Yorker reported, “The evidence wasn’t very good then for a gap between the genders’ learning styles so significant that it would mandate separate instruction, and it hasn’t gotten any better.” (Talbot).
While there are definitely intellectual and psychological differences between males and females, the most reliable studies have proved that the differences are much too insignificant. That, paired with the variability of individual men and women, makes it unnecessary to separate the genders for educational reasons. A study done by Claremont McKenna College published in Science magazine concluded that, “there is no well-designed research showing that single-sex education improves students’ academic performance.” (Talbot).
In some cases, separating classes by gender can negatively affect the learning experience of the children involved. While some students may learn better when they are not distracted by the presence of the opposite sex, other students thrive in a mixed-classroom setting. They are able to work well when mixed with classmates of the opposite gender and are more likely to exceed academically than when restricted to classes with their own sex.
Similarly, while not all students fit well into the single-gender classroom environment, some educators are not prepared to teach classes that are tailored to one gender or the other (“10 Biggest Pros And Cons Of Single Gender Classrooms”). Not all teachers are equipped with the skills and preference to effectively teach classrooms that are restricted to only one sex.
While teachers can use various teaching styles, it can be difficult to restrict those methods to fit only boys or only girls. This can affect the quality and efficacy of the teacher and the education they provide to their students. These factors can have adverse effects on the students’ learning environment and educational experience.
The number of public schools in the United States that segregate classes based on gender is rapidly on the rise. Many are in support of single-gender classrooms and cite a number of benefits that should be considered. First, teachers are able to tailor lesson plans based on how each gender learns, which can optimize their learning experience. Second, students from single-gender classrooms are more confident and higher self-esteem. Third, single-sex classrooms remove the distraction of the opposite sex, making it easier for students to concentrate. Fourth and finally, they can help improve academic achievement.
However, despite these advantages, there are a number of disadvantages as well. Some worry about the negative effect it has on the development of students’ social skills in terms of interacting with the opposite sex. Another disadvantage is that it can reinforce gender stereotypes, and a final argument against single-sex classrooms is that many believe there is not enough evidence to support segregating classrooms. If the trend of the last few decades continues, though, more and more public schools in the United States will begin to institute single-sex classes.
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“10 Biggest Pros And Cons Of Single Gender Classrooms”. Green Garage. GreenGarageBlog.org, 2015. Web. 14 Jun. 2016.
“Advantages for Girls”. NASSPE. National Association For Single Sex Public Education, 2016. Web. 14 Jun. 2016.
OCadiz, Maria. “The Pros & Cons of Separate Gender Classes”. Our Everyday Life. Our Everyday Live, Web. 2016. 14 Jun. 2016.
“Pros and Cons of Single-Sex Education.” Niche. Niche, 2016. Web. 14 Jun. 2016.
Stanberry, Kristin. “Single-sex education: the pros and cons”. Great Schools, Great Kids. Great Schools, 19 May 2016. Web. 14 Jun. 2016.
Talbot, Margaret. “The Case Against Single-Sex Classrooms.” The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 11 Jul. 2012. Web. 14 Jun. 2016.
“The Many Advantages of Single-Sex Classrooms”. CRC Health. CRC Health, 2005. Web. 14 Jun. 2016.