[Guest Blog by Shetal Shah, a teacher from Atlanta Girls School, Atlanta, Ga.  Shetal is a member of the Edward E. Ford Fellowship Program.  She participates in a yearlong cohort of Atlanta Public School and independent school teachers studying what we know about teaching and learning from a neuroscience perspective.]

I think I just completed most of my research for my topic…finally! It took me longer than expected.  I should be able to catch up, however, before I roll out and implement some of these strategies in my classroom after spring break.

My action research project is to identify and determine the effectiveness of gender-based pedagogical strategies aimed to improve memory, recall, and engagement of students in an all-girls classroom environment.

In order to identify gender-based pedagogical strategies, I read various articles and books written by experts in the field. The most helpful pieces of research came from those who observed single-gender classrooms to identify the most effective strategies (motivation and engagement seem to be the key indicators). The brain-based rationale was interesting for each pedagogical strategy, as well.

Some of the most common trends of strategies I found were:

For Boys:

  • Incorporate abstract arguments, philosophical conundrums, and moral debates
  • Use movement (this one came up the most frequently)
  • Use symbolic texts, diagrams, and graphs instead of sentences/texts
  • Have them do three quick activities versus a long-term project
  • Traditional tests
  • Competitive games (this one also came up frequently)
  • When giving directions, use less words and get to the point quickly
  • Classroom Environment:
    • Horseshoe arrangement
    • More space between students so they can spread out
    • Natural and bright light
    • Less cluttered and organized
    • Mix up seating arrangements and a variety of a seating arrangements (tables, desks, an easy chair, rug area, etc.)
    • 69 degrees
    • use outdoors
    • can be loud (teacher should be loud)

For Girls:

  • Incorporate cooperative learning
  • Assign long-term projects
  • Allow for verbal expression (written/spoken)
  • Assign projects and writing stories
  • Provide opportunities to discuss what’s been taught
  • Note-taking and reading
  • Provide opportunities to read fiction
  • Mind-mapping
  • Encouragement
  • Classroom Environment:
    • Cozy, comfortable room
    • Tables for collaborative work
    • Cozy nooks for reading
    • Loving and supportive (put up signs of motivation and encouragement)
    • Quiet, calm, organized
    • 74 degrees

Since it would be unrealistic to test every strategy, my initial thought is to try the following strategies in my action research project:

Boy-Friendly Strategies Girl-Friendly Strategies
Activities that require movement (i.e. tossing a ball, walk & talk) Less movement (i.e. stretch breaks)
Quick activities that can be done within one or two lessons Long-term project
Diagrams/graphic organizers when presenting content Text and note-taking when presenting content
Non-fiction (reading and reporting)- can be tied into activities Fiction (reading and writing)- can be tied into activities
Environment: rearrange seating, bring a rug, 69 degrees and lots of bright light Environment: warm, cozy, 74 degrees, natural and warm lighting, signs of motivation

Do you think this is too much? Should I pair it down even more? I would love your input on this research study or any thoughts you might have.

My next step is to plan my next units with these strategies in mind. I will teach Latin American Revolutions using Girl-Friendly Strategies and the Industrial Revolution with Boy-Friendly Strategies in all-girl classes and use data collection tools to uncover how girls respond to the effectiveness of these different pedagogical strategies to engage them as learners.