Does Gender Matter? Area Teachers, Students Say Experience Is More Important

By Jenco, Melissa | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), September 15, 2006 | Go to article overview

Does Gender Matter? Area Teachers, Students Say Experience Is More Important


Jenco, Melissa, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Melissa Jenco Daily Herald Staff Writer

Learning may be linked to the gender of the teacher, according to a recent study, but Naperville teachers and students disagree.

A new study concluded that boys tend to learn better from male teachers while girls tend to learn better from female teachers.

The study was done by Thomas Dee, associate professor of economics at Swarthmore College and visiting scholar at Stanford University. Dee analyzed a National Education Department survey from 1988 that questioned nearly 25,000 eighth-graders.

Looking at test scores and self-reports from teachers and students, he determined that girls performed better in science, social studies and English when they were taught by a female. At the same time, boys' scores dropped in these areas when they had a female teacher.

But Naperville teachers and students said they don't see a difference in their classrooms based on gender and that a variety of other factors come into play such as teacher experience and personality, the number of females versus males in the class and student's view of the subject matter.

"I really think it doesn't matter. I don't see a difference in gender based on what the teacher's sex is," said Matt Olejnik, math and social science teacher at Kennedy Junior High. "I think as long as the teacher is experienced and teaches to a variety of learning styles, I don't think that really matters."

Many teachers seem to agree with Olejnik that more than gender, it's learning styles they must learn to accommodate.

"Some teachers are more visual in their presentation mode, they're more hands-on, and other teachers may be more auditory in terms of just providing lecture," said Nancy Keiser, associate professor of education at North Central College. "And if that matches up with your style of learning, then more learning might take place."

When training teachers, Keiser said she talks to them about a variety of differences they'll face in the classroom - gender, culture, learning styles and more.

"Certainly teachers need to be aware of what styles are going to be good for individual students," Keiser said. "Gender is not going to be the only variable you might look at, but you still have to teach the whole class, too."

The ratio of male and female students also may play a role in students' success.

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